Salem Acknowledges History with the Institution of Slavery

Salem Acknowledges History with the Institution of Slavery

April 26, 2018

In the past year, Salem Academy and College has been examining its history with the institution of slavery. Today, Salem released a research report which verifies that the school owned and leased enslaved people, and it issued an apology for its past actions.

“Salem apologizes with profound remorse for the use of enslaved labor at the school,” said D.E. Lorraine Sterritt, president of Salem Academy and College. “Understanding our history is critical to understanding our present and guiding us as we look to the future and seek healing.” 

Salem commissioned Dr. Grant McAllister, an associate professor with Wake Forest University’s Department of German and Russian, to conduct the research. His report can be found here. In addition, the school has created a website with other pertinent information about this period in its history. 

The school has funded a continuation of the research to learn more. The researchers for the next phase of work are being identified. One of them will be Salem College senior Jessi Bowman. 

The Committee on the History of Salem Academy and College has made recommendations for next steps. The committee included Board of Trustees, Board of Visitors, student, faculty, staff, and alumnae representation and was co-chaired by Michelle Hopkins Lawrence, Salem Academy History Teacher, and Katherine Knapp Watts, Vice President for Enrollment, Financial Aid, and Communications at the Academy and the College.

“I wish to thank the members of the History Committee and Dr. McAllister. Through their work, we have begun the important process of learning about Salem’s relationship with the institution of slavery. In partnership with you, the Salem community, we will continue to work to understand the critical lessons to be learned from the past and their implications for Salem Academy and College today and in the future,” said Sterritt.

Dr. Alan Mueller, Assistant Dean of Students for Student Activities, Leadership, and Intercultural Education, and Dr. Shawn Ricks, Interim Assistant Vice President for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Compliance will facilitate a series of meetings to discuss Salem Academy and College’s history with slavery. Dates of these meetings will be announced. 

Salem Academy and College will also continue its participation in Universities Studying Slavery (USS). Member institutions of USS gather to discuss information they have uncovered regarding their histories and effective ways to act on those findings. At a recent meeting at Hollins University, Jessi Bowman shared her research from the Salem Academy and College Archives and her work with Old Salem’s Hidden Town Project through her presentation, “Salem Female Academy and the Transition from Slavery to Segregation during Reconstruction.” 

We will also form a new commission charged with helping to create programming for the greater campus community as we learn more about this period in our history.