Duke University holds symposium on slavery

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tags: slavery, Duke University

Historical monuments can provide clear windows onto our nation’s troubled racial past -- or they can obscure more than they reveal. And universities have a special obligation to examine how we memorialize the past, said speakers at a two-day symposium “American Universities, Monuments, and the Legacies of Slavery.”

The event drew overflow crowds to the Holsti-Anderson Room at Perkins Library on March 30 and 31 to hear leading scholars of history, law, economics, art history and sociology. 

Conference organizer Thavolia Glymph, a professor of history at Duke, said the event was prompted by the ongoing national debate about Confederate monuments, including the Robert E. Lee statue that was removed from Duke Chapel in August 2017.

“We wanted to think about the historical framing of the monuments, not only in slavery but also the discriminatory economic regime that followed slavery,” Glymph said. 

The symposium themes were set during an opening keynote address by noted historian Nell Painter, author of “The History of White People” and an award-winning biography of activist Sojourner Truth.

Drawing upon works by Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and other prominent 18th and 19thcentury writers, Painter described how “slavery did harm to the American political character.” The tribalist politics that Painter said define “America in the age of Trump” result from the ongoing legacy of slavery, she said.

“We must acknowledge slavery’s distortion of the American public sphere,” Painter said. “The riveting issues of our time – gun violence, sex harassment of working women – all come out of experience of slavery.”

Read entire article at Duke Today

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