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Curry-Coffin Commission on Slavery, Race and Recognition

Studying Slavery, Equity, and Inclusion on a Southern Quaker Campus

New Garden Boarding School, now Guilford College, opened in 1837 as an exclusively white, co-educational consciously anti-slavery educational institution and remains the only Quaker-founded college in the southeastern United States. This legacy is complex and presents examples of pride as well as of missed opportunities and enforcement of the status quo. Often the heritage of resisting slavery has muted or overshadowed narratives about Guilford’s complicity with racial segregation and other forms of racial oppression that have continued long past the official legal end of slavery in the U.S.

Today the institution touts the campus land as a place that provided refuge to enslaved African Americans in the early nineteenth century and, 56 years after enrollment of Guilford’s first full-time African American student, has a 25% African American student population (but only 5% of faculty). Guilford’s identity is as a historically white institution that defied slavery and has often prided itself in valuing equality, but it has much work to do to come to terms with its fuller history and to develop into a truly anti-racist institution. The question for Guilford is how a historically white institution might best live into its stated aspirational values of equality and justice, with acknowledgement of past missteps and transgressions, to construct a future that supports all students to their fullest potential.