William & Mary

Working toward fuller inclusion

The following originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of the W&M Alumni Magazine with the story, "Black at William & Mary: Commemorating 50 years of African-Americans in residence." - Ed.

Like all communities, those of us at William & Mary have sought to understand the violence and hatred in Charlottesville this past August, and how best to respond.

As I said in a campus message, neo-Nazis, the KKK and other such groups must not and do not define our society. They most surely have no place as a matter of ideology or practice on our campuses. It is good that this year at William & Mary we can celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Hulon Willis Association and the 50th anniversary of the first African-American students to live on campus.

It took 258 years from the College’s founding before William & Mary admitted an African American, Hulon Willis Sr., in 1951. He graduated in 1956 with a master’s in education. Also in 1951, our law school admitted Edward Augustus Travis, who graduated in 1954, the first African-American to receive a W&M degree. Lynn Briley, Janet Brown Strafer and Karen Ely, our first African-American students to live on campus, arrived as freshmen 50 years ago in fall 1967. These alumni and alumnae changed William & Mary forever. It is a source of profound regret and lasting sorrow that William & Mary was closed for so very long to so many people.

In 2009, we launched the Lemon Project, an endeavor to investigate, acknowledge and learn from William & Mary’s history of slavery, secession and segregation. In its eighth year of research, teaching, and symposia, the Lemon Project will submit a report later this year. It has already shed significant light on the university’s racial past. In 2015, we created a Task Force on Race and Race Relations. It consulted widely and wrote a report with more than 50 recommendations. A team, led by our chief diversity officer, is working on their implementation. Some steps have already been taken. Last year, for instance, we renamed two residence halls — one for Lemon, the enslaved man whose name the Lemon Project bears, and the other for the late Dr. Carroll Hardy, a beloved administrator who was a tireless advocate for diversity and inclusion at W&M. Despite progress made since 1951, William & Mary, like our society as a whole, still has miles to travel. It remains for us to break through the obstacles to full racial inclusion and opportunity that still remain.

To read President Reveley’s campus-wide message on Charlottesville, please go to http://www.wm.edu/president/charlottesville