An auditorium full of students, faculty, staff and alumni listened to some of TCU’s racial history at the university’s second annual Reconciliation Day Wednesday.
The Confederacy was strongly present on TCU’s campus from 1895 to 1923, said Gregg Cantrell, history professor at TCU. The local stage production of the “The Clansman” and the film version, “Birth of Nation,” were advertised in the student newspaper. “You’ll never forget the Ku Klux,” the ad read.
“Black janitors, clothes dishwashers and groundskeepers kept the place running,” Cantrell said. Nine Black staff members lived on campus, and they were frequently the brunt of students’ jokes. They named a Black groundskeeper as student body president and laughed. In the student yearbook, photos of Black janitors were captioned saying they got their degrees from Mop and Broom university. The administration stayed silent knowing that this was happening, Cantrell said.
“We’re not going to sugarcoat this. We’re not going to dance around this,” said Frederick W. Gooding Jr., the Race and Reconciliation Initiative chair. “It might be embarrassing. It might be a dark chapter … but that actually positions us to change and influence the future.”
TCU formed the Race and Reconciliation Initiative in August in 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, which prompted TCU and many other universities to research their history with slavery. The group made seven recommendations in its first report, released in April 2021, such as creating an online platform of collected history and improving diversity among faculty and staff.