Historic women’s college apologizes for owning slaves
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.(AP) | 5/21/2018, 3:56 p.m.
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.(AP) – A historic North Carolina women’s college has apologized for having once owned slaves.
The Winston-Salem Journal reported a research report released April 27 showed Salem Academy and College owned slaves who worked on campus as housekeepers, among other roles. The school also leased slaves.
The school commissioned Wake Forest University associate professor Grant McAllister to conduct the research. His report shows that between 1810 and 1840, the college owned and leased enslaved people. He said it appears slaves were owned primarily for work in the laundry.
McAllister said his goal was to establish evidence of either free or slave African American enrollment in the school from 1772 to the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. He reviewed literature for the time period, some of which he translated from German.
The report also showed a slave owner successfully requested that one of his slaves, a 10-year-old girl named Hanna, be allowed to attend the school. It is unclear in what capacity Hanna attended school. She was listed in her slave owner’s will as one of his earthly possessions.
Another slave, 16-year-old Anna Maria, was in the school’s choir, according to literature.
Salem president Lorraine Sterritt said the school apologizes “with profound remorse for the use of enslaved labor at the school.”
The school has funded a continuation of the research to learn more, and a school historical board has made recommendations for next steps. Also, a series of meetings to discuss Salem’s history with slavery will be held.
Salem, founded in 1772 by a Moravian religious community, is considered the nation’s oldest female educational institution that still operates as a women’s college.
“The fact the Moravians embraced slavery, as evidenced through their owning and renting of slaves, must be as much a part of the narrative of their early history in North Carolina as is their history of welcoming slaves into their congregation and treating them as equals before God,” McAllister said. “I sincerely hope my report helps provide a piece of historical context that encourages further examination, transparency, truth and above all humility.”