News from the Working Group
May 2020 News
- Digging Into the Past: J-term course taught by Dr. Jon Bohland
- Events and Community Outreach
- The Restoration of the Green Ridge Church Cemetery
- Signage for First Baptist Hollins
- Universities Studying Slavery
- Unveiling the Past: Virtual Exhibit
The Working Group has been examining options for an institutional apology from Hollins on the topic of slavery. Examples of institutions which have issued such apologies include the University of North Carolina, the College of William & Mary, University of Virginia and other schools, as well as both houses of the U.S. Congress.
Why This Matters
Public apologies are expressions of recognition and responsibility. In issuing such a statement, Hollins would formally acknowledge the school’s participation in enslavement and name it as a dishonorable and harmful act. It would openly recognize the enslaved people who worked on the Hollins campus, and ask for forgiveness. The apology would be a permanent part of the university’s public record; it would also be an incredibly important utterance in the dialogue Hollins has with the community, and with our selves. Put it simply: we need to say we are sorry, and say it in a way that matters.
Equally important is another part of apology: repair. Institutional apologies must include a commitment to actions that will ensure a better and more equitable future. Hollins has dedicated itself to the values of inclusivity and diversity, and can bring that same dedication to work which can begin to repair our past.
What Should be Done?
How can Hollins welcome and support the descendants of enslaved people who worked on our campus? What can be done to preserve, commemorate and honor the history of those whose labor supported the school? As our country wrestles with the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow, what actions will help Hollins to be a space where Black students, faculty, and staff can feel a true sense of belonging? How can all of this work be integrated into the university’s educational mission?
Discussions about an apology will wrestle with these and other questions. As options are considered, we must ensure that everyone has a voice. The Working Group hopes to work with the campus community over the coming months, and we welcome your voice in the process. Join us at listening sessions this Fall, or feel free to send your thoughts using the contact form on our webpage. –Maryke Barber, Information Literacy, Arts Liaison and Outreach Librarian.
Digging Into the Past: J-term course taught by Dr. Jon Bohland
The Short Term class focused on how we learn about, present, teach, and research histories that are difficult, violent, and oppressive. Specifically, our focus examined issues of enslavement and the legacy of Jim Crow at Hollins University and in the Greater Roanoke Valley. Students learned about the university’s history of enslavement, the research of the working group, stories of Jim Crow violence in the Roanoke Valley, and issues of monument creation and erection. Students engaged in group projects focused on a specific topic related to the work of the working group or on issues of collective memory in Roanoke. -Dr. Jon Bohland, Associate Professor of International Studies.
Group Project: Renaming Buildings
Hollins University’s establishment nearly 180 years ago grants this community a history steeped in the cultures of different historical periods. As Hollins grapples with its active participation in enslavement during the pre-Civil War era, students have started researching buildings on campus and the people they idolize. Most buildings on campus are named after benefactors who invested resources into the University. These same benefactors participated in the enslavement of African Americans and inarguably benefited from the free labor. Through archival research, this group is collecting names of enslaved peoples on campus and creating a proposal to rename buildings on campus. In turn, this group hopes to transfer adoration from known white supremacists to the families they oppressed and consequently profited off of. Actions taken by members of the aforementioned families and more are recorded in letters and historical documents. Their values do not represent the values of Hollins University as it stands today. Following many Universities throughout the United States, the proposal to rename buildings is in pursuit of bridging the gap of knowledge in the Hollins community about our history. To even attempt to rectify our founders’ actions, tangible appreciation, acknowledgment, and apologies must be thoughtfully made. –Makda Kalayu ’23
Group Project: Walking Tour
Hollins has a rich history that struggles with perceptions of Civil War-era culture and how to seek reconciliation for the enslavement of the ancestors of our present-day community. In an attempt to rectify the actions of the people who helped in establishing this university, a group of students has begun working on a walking tour project and application in which we dive deeper into the history of Hollins. Within this, we will include a deeper history of popular names associated with this campus such as Tayloe and Cocke. We will present stories from the Hollins community, whose ancestors continued to work on this campus post-enslavement, and have essentially built and maintained Hollins since its founding in 1842. This project will provide a way for Hollins students and members of the Roanoke community to learn more about the history of Hollins University and present a step towards reconciliations for the enslavement of possibly hundreds of people. – Emily Miller ‘22
Events and Community Outreach
On October 15, 2019, the Working Group led “Changing the Narrative: The Legacy of Slavery” as part of the Roanoke Valley Changing the Narrative Project. The dialogue series is run in partnership with Virginia Humanities and the Kellogg Foundation. During the evening’s dinner and discussion program, Idella Glenn, Ashleigh Breske, Jenine Culligan, Beth Harris, Maryke Barber and Bill Krause presented material on the history and legacy of slavery at Hollins.
On February 27, 2020, Jeremy Alexander, a descendant of the Georgetown University 272, spoke at Hollins about his experience researching his family history and genealogy. Alexander learned he was a member of the GU 272–the 272 people sold by Georgetown in 1838 to save the university from financial ruin and closure–upon developing an Ancestry.com account, when he received a call from a relative while at work on Georgetown’s campus. Alexander presented on this experience, and what the other descendants have learned since the university made an official apology for the sale of their ancestors. – Dr. Rebecca Rosen, Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing.
The Restoration of the Green Ridge Church Cemetery
In my sixteen-year association with Hollins University I have heard many references to the antebellum period and its legacy on the Hollins campus. It has been the purpose of the Working Group to investigate these bits of information thoroughly and reconstruct the truth.
One such passing comment I have heard has been the existence of a cemetery at the site next to Honey Tree Early Learning Center on Plantation Road. A couple of years ago my wife and I walked through the vacant lot and found a few headstones and indentations in the ground. Indeed, it was a cemetery, but little more could be discerned.
In the spring of 2019 the Working Group decided to delve further into the history of this site. With many of us in the midst of preparing our students for final exams and graduation, the bulk of the work commenced later in the summer.
In the Roanoke County archives we found a survey of the site done by Tom Klatka, of the Virginia State Historical Resources Department. His study confirmed there were 113 persons buried at the site. This was the location of the original Green Ridge Baptist Church. During the summer representatives of the Working Group met with Phil North, Chair of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisor and representative of the Hollins district; Dan O’Donnell, County Administrator; and Tom Klatka. Everyone was were extremely supportive of the project. As a result of the meeting, Bailey Howard-Debois, of the county planning department, was appointed to help us with the project going forward.
Bailey and her colleagues, with Tom’s input as well, have developed a schematic of the site with suggestions for layout and landscaping. In general, the idea is to landscape with indigenous plants that are appropriate to what a 19th century cemetery would have looked like. We envision a plaque with the names of those we know are buried there, a walkway with a couple of benches, and a state historical marker on the near the road. With regards to these names, we have identified about 20 so far, and it appears that Clem Bolden and his wife are among them. (see “Signage”)
The County would like a commitment from all interested parties about the ongoing maintenance of the site. While the County is willing to help us further develop the site, they understandably want to know their work will have a long-lasting impact before they invest a lot of time and labor in the project. We are happy to report the verbal commitment of Hollins University, First Baptist Church of Hollins, and Ebenezer Baptist Church.
As you can see, this is a work in progress. Much more will be accomplished this summer. The Working Group is committed to seeing this project come to fruition. We look forward to the day when the Green Ridge Baptist Church Cemetery is a place of honor, reflection, and peace. – Dr. William Krause, Associate Professor of Music.
Signage for First Baptist Hollins
First Baptist Hollins had its beginnings in Enon Baptist Church, a church in which Hollins University founder Charles Lewis Cocke was a prominent member. It has been documented that Cocke was instrumental in providing a place at Enon for “colored” parishioners to worship.
Around 1867, the African American population of Enon formed Greenridge Baptist Church, which was located on Plantation Road. The church is no longer there, but the cemetery with over 120 graves still exists. It has been documented that Clem Bolden (1846-1929) long time employee of Hollins and his wife Rebekah Bolden are buried there. (see “Restoration”)
Around 1881/1883, Greenridge decided to separate so that members could attend church closer to their communities. The result was two churches: Ebenezer Baptist in the Kingstown community and Lovely Zion in the Hollins (formerly Oldfields) community. Lovely Zion was destroyed by fire in 1905 and rebuilt in 1906. The church was renamed First Baptist Hollins in 1951. Several prominent former employees of Hollins University are buried in the First Baptist Hollins cemetery. They include Mary Emma Bruce (1910-2010), Caesar Morton (1848/50 – 1929), and Lewis Hunt (1885 – 1954). Descendants of the Bolden, Bruce, Morton and Hunt families have provided many years of service to Hollins University and remarkably several are currently employed at the university.
The main church marquee will be upgraded and will include a plaque that acknowledges the relationship between the church and the University, and the many years of service provided to the University. – Dr. Idella Glenn, Special Advisor on Inclusivity and Diversity.
Universities Studying Slavery
Over the 2019-20 academic year, members of the Working Group attended two conferences run by USS, the Universities Studying Slavery consortium; Members of the Working Group plan to participate in the Fall 2020 meeting at Guilford University. Rebecca Rosen attended the Fall USS Symposium in Cincinnati, in October 2019, “The Academy’s Original Sin,” co-sponsored by Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati. In addition to community-building workshops for USS members, during the conference, local community members and researchers presented their findings on the legacy of slavery in university and college operations; community physical and mental health needs; forms of reparative justice; researching family history; and ways of incorporating research on the history and legacy of slavery into classroom teaching and discussion.
Idella Glenn, Bill Krause, Makda Kalayu and Rebecca Rosen attended the USS Spring Business meeting at UVa in Charlottesville from March 5-6, 2020. During this meeting, representatives from member institutions workshopped ways for colleges and universities to be more engaged with the descendants of people who were enslaved at those institutions; ways for larger institutions to assist smaller schools with organizing and conference costs; how to meet remotely when necessary; and plans to formalize USS business operations. Participants also attended workshops given by artists and activists on how to support community work.
Unveiling the Past: Virtual Exhibit
“Cultural Property, Rights, and Museums” was taught in Spring 2020 by Dr. Ashleigh Breske. The exhibition titled “Unveiling the Past: Reckoning with Our History of Enslavement at Hollins” was a collaboration between the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum, materials from the Library Archives, and students from the class. With help and guidance from Jenine Culligan and Beth Harris, the students researched specific objects and related histories from Hollins University’s collections. The exhibit was initially scheduled to be presented in the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum April 9 – April 26, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the museum being closed to the public – it instead became a virtual exhibit. Kyra Schmidt created the website using labels and text written by Hollins students, with a foreword by their professor. – Dr. Ashleigh Breske, Visiting Assistant Professor of International Studies.
Last updated: 5/14/2020