PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — B. Anthony Bogues, the Harmon Family Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University, has been named director of the University’s new Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. The announcement was made today by Kevin McLaughlin, dean of the faculty.
Creation of the center was among the recommendations of the University’s three-year project on Slavery and Justice, undertaken in 2003 by a steering committee created by Brown President Ruth J. Simmons.
“The project on Slavery and Justice broke new ground in understanding slavery as a pervasive, even unremarkable element in Colonial New England society,” Simmons said. “It also provided a durable model for the public transparent discussion of difficult issues. I am delighted that Professor Bogues has accepted this appointment. The creation of this center and the appointment of a distinguished inaugural director are crucially important steps in securing the future for scholarly work in the area of justice and human rights.”
Simmons’s charge to the steering committee “changed the tenor of conversations” about slavery, race, and justice, said James Campbell, the committee chair, now at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University. “The idea that any university would voluntarily disclose aspects of its history that could prove embarrassing or troubling seemed outlandish at the time,” Campbell said. “Now it seems almost de rigueur, with more than 20 campuses investigating their own histories.”
The recommendation to establish a center with a full-time director and staff grew from the committee’s conviction that its own work of creating and disseminating knowledge was exactly what universities are designed to do best. Bogues, Campbell said, was a critically important member of the steering committee and one of the primary authors of its final report in 2006. “Tony is not just a scholar with a broad range of interests, but also a teacher and a very productive and supporting presence.”
Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice
In its formal response to the Slavery and Justice report, approved by the Corporation in February 2007, the University endorsed the recommendation to create a center that would continue and expand the work begun by the steering committee. In April of that year, Glenn Loury, professor of economics, was appointed chair of a committee to consider the size, scope, structure, composition, and mission of such a center. The Loury committee’s report (pdf), presented late in 2007, proposed a robust center that would develop new courses, provide graduate and postdoctoral fellowships, support conferences and symposia, and offer “a high-profile public lecture series that would bring to campus prominent figures with an international reputation on issues related to human rights.” The University is moving forward with those plans.
The new center will draw from a variety of academic disciplines and departments at the University, and it will have two boards for advice and oversight. President Simmons will chair a board of external overseers. A faculty board of advisers will assist Bogues with developing a broad range of programs and activities. The inaugural faculty board will include Lina Fruzzetti, professor of anthropology; Philip Gould, professor of English; Matthew Guterl, incoming professor of Africana Studies and American Studies; Glenn Loury, professor of economics; Marion Orr, professor of political science and director of the Taubman Center; and Seth Rockman, associate professor of history.
Brown University, with the resources of the John Carter Brown Library, the scholarly depth of departments, and strong support from the Cogut Humanities Center, the John Nicholas Brown Center, and other academic centers and institutes, is an ideal place to undertake this work, Bogues said.
“To work and think about slavery today is also to think about the legacies of slavery — how slavery shaped the modern world and how an understanding of its legacies can inform our efforts to construct a more humane world,” Bogues said. “Our work will be broad-based and therefore interdisciplinary. We will be inclusive and open to issues of human rights, justice, and freedom. One important legacy of slavery, after all, is the quest for freedom. Creation of the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice is a very important moment for the academy, making Brown an internationally recognized place for thinking and studying about these issues.”
B. Anthony Bogues
B. Anthony Bogues is the Harmon Family Professor of Africana Studies, affiliated with Brown’s Department of Political Science and Department of Modern Culture and Media. He is also a faculty fellow at the Cogut Center for Humanities and a visiting scholar at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he teaches courses on art, history, and politics in the Brown/RISD dual degree program. Bogues is the author of four books, two edited volumes, and numerous articles in the fields of intellectual history, political thought, literary and cultural studies. He is considered to be a major figure in the field of Africana intellectual history and political theory and one of the leading intellectual historians of the Caribbean. He is currently at work on a book about freedom and human emancipation.
In March 2010, Bogues was invited to address the U.N. General Assembly on slavery and its meaning for the modern world. He was also co-curator of a major Haitian art exhibition in 2011 and is currently working with Haitian artist Edouard Duval Carrie on a project that includes historical volumes on Haitian art and an exhibition on the history of Haitian art to be held in South Africa in 2013.
The recipient of many awards for teaching and scholarship, Bogues served as chair of Africana studies at Brown from 2003 to 2009, as well as a member of numerous University committees. He is an associate director of the Center for Caribbean Thought at the University of the West Indies and an honorary professor at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, where he has served as the Distinguished Mellon Visiting Fellow. Bogues also has an appointment as distinguished humanities professor at Addis Ababa University. He is an associate editor of the Caribbean journal Small Axe and a member of the editorial collective of one of the leading humanities journals, Boundary 2: An International Journal of Literature and Culture.
Slavery and Justice
The University’s official response to the Report of the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice included a number of actions that the University would undertake. In addition to establishing a center and appointing a full-time director, the response included the following actions, among others:
- Commission a revision of the University’s official history that presents a more complete picture.
The University has engaged a historian to write this history will publish it as part of the 250th anniversary celebration in 2014.
- Disseminate the report in a variety of media.
The report has been shared widely and is available online.
- Materials used in preparation of the report will be held in the University’s permanent archives and presented to the public in exhibitions from time to time.
A museum exhibition about the voyages of the slave ship The Sally has been shown at Brown and has traveled to schools and libraries. In addition, the University has established a Fellowship for the Study of the Public History of Slavery and awarded the first fellowship to an graduate student in the fall of 2008.
- The University will work with representatives of the City of Providence and the State of Rhode Island to ensure that the history of slavery and the slave trade in Rhode Island may gain its appropriate and permanent place in the public historical record.
In February 2012, the Corporation selected Martin Puryear to create a slavery memorial, which will be placed on the Front Campus, between Hope College and Carrie Tower.
- The University will raise a permanent endowment in the amount of $10 million to establish a Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence.
Brown is committed to raising $10 million for the Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence and has appointed a Corporation committee to oversee the fund and establish criteria for the awards. Approximately $1.5 million has been raised and nearly $300,000 has been awarded to elementary, middle, and high schools in Providence.
- The University will provide free tuition to as many as 10 admitted graduate students per year who agree to serve in Providence-areas schools or surrounding area schools for a minimum of three years after graduation.
The University created the Urban Education Fellows Program and enrolled the first fellows in the summer of 2008. The first nine fellows graduated in May of 2009, six more in May of 2010, one in 2011, and one will graduate in 2012.