As stated in the College’s Mission Statement, “we educate our community to ask reflective questions, apply critical thought and act with purpose.” Because of these principles, we are duty-bound to ask reflective questions about ourselves—both our past and present selves. We are then obligated to tell the truth about ourselves and act with purpose according to those truths.
In April 2021, President Elizabeth MacLeod Walls established the Racial Reconciliation Commission (the Commission) with the aim of “finding and expressing both an historical and moral truth about the racial history of William Jewell College”. As such, the Commission for over a year has investigated the connections between the College, its founders and the institution of slavery. The Commission has found that the connections are clear and indisputable.
From 1848 through 1865, William Jewell College benefitted from the talents, free labor and brilliance of enslaved Africans. It is well-established that Jewell not only condoned and profited from the institution of slavery, but in some cases defended this horrendous practice. It is also evident that Jewell benefitted from discriminatory practices following slavery’s abolition, even into the 21st century.
We acknowledge our being a part of slavery’s proliferation, not only on our campus, but throughout the region, and for this we wish to make amends. We admit to having turned a blind eye to this truth for the one-hundred and seventy-three years of our existence. We stand fast to this acknowledgement and are sorry for our participation in the injustices perpetuated against African Americans after their enslavement was abolished. We were complicit with unjust laws and false ideas that led to most African Americans being denied full access to liberties that should have been their “unalienable rights.” We acknowledge that by upholding unjust laws and false ideas, Jewell departed from its “belief that every person is of the utmost importance and deserves dignity and respect.”
This acknowledgment is our first step. We understand that a confession in and of itself is insufficient. We recognize that it will take considerable time before we gain a clearer picture of the injury we’ve caused and before we can fully appreciate the gifts, talents and genius of formerly enslaved persons and their descendants, who were significant to the establishment of Jewell. The Commission is committed to giving critical thought to this topic and to proposing possible ways in which the College can reconcile its documented racist past. Some of the Commission’s recommendations may include, but are not limited to, the College’s budget, hiring practices, scholarship offerings, curriculum design, and recruitment and retention measures. As a starting point, we suggest the following actions in an attempt to repair some of the harm caused by Jewell founders.
We use the accompanying Principles of Commemoration as our guide as we attempt to move the College toward reconciliation.