University of Georgia faculty, graduate and undergraduate students within the department of history spent the last few months in the Richard B. Russell Jr. Special Collections Library researching the rich history of black and minority communities on campus.
The department will unveil its research to the public with the Black Histories at UGA tour on Feb. 23.
The department organizes an annual event in honor of Black History Month, and this year the focus is on namesakes and landmarks that intertwine with minorities, said Jamie Kreiner, the department’s director of undergraduate studies and coordinator of the tour.
The tour focuses mainly on the history of North Campus. The tour group will meet at noon at the Main Library and work its way north to the Arch and then back down, hitting places like LeConte and Baldwin Hall along the way.
“Most of the histories are about the kind of mixed legacies of the namesakes,” Kreiner said. “For all the positive things the buildings were recognized for, [the namesakes] were often pro-slavery or pro-segregation.”
LeConte Hall was named after scientist Joseph LeConte, a graduate and professor of UGA, who was an early teacher of Charles Darwin’s evolution theory. However, the tour will bring up discussion of his background as an ardent segregationist, Kreiner said.
The history of slaves on the UGA campus will also be discussed during the tour. The university directly profited off of the labor of slaves through contracts with slave owners, said Diane Trap a UGA librarian for African-American studies.
Places like Baldwin Hall have numerous stories related to this part of history, especially since a total of 30 identifiable human remains, which are believed to be slaves, were found buried underneath the building in 2015.
“The history at Baldwin will be about both the history of burial practices in Athens before and after the Civil War, and also how the university is still engaging with the past, sometimes in successful ways and sometimes not,” Kreiner said.
The tour also covers the history of other minority groups, including the ties between Native Americans and a few landmarks on campus like Lumpkin Street.
Lumpkin Street was named after former Georgia governor and trustee to the university, Wilson Lumpkin. Lumpkin published a letter supporting Georgia’s secession from the Union and facilitated the Indian Removal Act of 1830, said Kreiner.
The tour will last about an hour and a half. Although it’s a walking tour, if anyone with disabilities would like to attend, arrangements can be made through contact with the Department of History in advance.
UGA was built through the effort of many people who weren’t commemorated, and this tour will hopefully start a conversation of recognizing them, Kreiner said.
“It’s important to consider who is being excluded from our histories and work towards a way of thinking about a lot more perspectives that isn’t customary when on a regular campus tour or walking from class to class,” Kreiner said.