The Lemon Project Report

The Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation Report of the First Eight Years

Submitted to Katherine A. Rowe, President
Michael R. Halleran, Provost
February 2019

Executive Summary 

In 2009, the William & Mary (W&M) Board of Visitors (BOV) passed a resolution acknowledging the institution’s role as a slaveholder and proponent of Jim Crow and established the Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation. This report covers the work of the Project’s first eight years. It includes a recap of the programs and events sponsored by the Lemon Project, course development, and community engagement efforts. It also begins to come to grips with the complexities of the history of the African American experience at the College.

Research and Scholarship

Over the past eight years, faculty, staff, students, and community volunteers have conducted research that has provided insight into the experiences of African Americans at William & Mary. This information has been shared at conferences, symposia, during community presentations, in scholarly articles, and in the classroom. For more information about Research and Scholarship, see Appendix A.

Teaching

Early in the process, it was decided that undergraduate courses would be revised or developed using archival resources. The purpose of such courses is to disseminate archival information and to help students learn about the complexities of institutional slavery. To date, seven courses have been developed and taught or co-taught by Dr. Jody Allen, Lemon Project Director. An Independent Studies course resulted in the student report, “The Legacy of Jim Crow at William & Mary.” The Lemon Project has also mentored several student summer research projects. For details on these projects, see Appendix B: Teaching.

Other Initiatives and Collaborations

A full description of Lemon Project initiatives and collaborations is provided in Appendix C. Ongoing signature projects include the annual Lemon Project Spring Symposium, which began in 2011. In 2012, William & Mary added a new tradition to Commencement weekend, the Donning of the Kente. Through the 2018 Commencement, a total of 745 students have participated in the Donning of the Kente celebration. The third signature event are the Lemon’s Legacies Porch Talks, which foster conversations among students, faculty, staff, and community members.

Plans, Recommendations, and Endorsements

Building on and learning from the Lemon Project’s work to date, this report includes plans, recommendations, and endorsements that suggest a map forward. These are based on feedback gathered at symposia, Porch Talks, community meetings, online questionnaires, courses, small group discussion, etc. They also reflect collaborations with other colleges and universities doing similar work. Appendices A through D provide details related to research and scholarship, teaching, project initiatives, university initiatives, community collaboration, and the Project’s organizational structure and staffing. Section III, the final section, consists largely of the findings of archival research and includes an overview of African Americans at William & Mary.

Conclusion

As the Lemon Project wraps up its first eight years, much has been accomplished. Yet there is still much work to do. Additional research questions need to be asked, and scholarship remains to be written. While we know more about the experience of the enslaved African Americans at William & Mary, their experience based on gender and age remain unclear. Additionally, a better understanding of their experiences over time (17th, 18th, 19th centuries) and place (campus or plantation) will help us gain a clearer picture of the enslaved as individuals and families.

The Lemon Project classes have provided an opportunity for students taking History, American Studies, Africana Studies, and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies courses to learn more about the institution’s racial history. The next step is to encourage faculty in other areas to explore how and where their disciplines overlap with the university’s history. For example, in what ways is the health of the descendant community affected by the legacies of slavery? What are the economic holdovers from slavery and Jim Crow, and how might the university reach out to underserved communities?

Finally, we must sustain and expand efforts to engage the Greater Williamsburg community, especially the African American community. While we have worked diligently with some success to build a bridge between this community and the campus, some people remain skeptical about the institution’s real, meaningful, and long-term commitment to the work of reconciliation. William & Mary’s recent issuance of an apology for its role in slavery and Jim Crow may go a long way toward allaying these doubts, but it is not enough. We will both continue to go out to the community and encourage the community to come to us; however, a literal and figurative wall still surrounds William & Mary. We will work to remove barriers and urge the community to take advantage of all the school has to offer.

The work of Lemon Project has been challenging and rewarding. It has also been inspiring. It has provided a doorway to the past and a way to propel William & Mary into the future. And we have just begun. Stay tuned.