Tulane University Removes a Bell From Campus That Had Been Used to Summon Enslaved People

For many years students at Tulane University would ring the Victory Bell on the university’s Uptown Campus after the school’s athetic team had won an intercolligiate contest. Recently, the university became aware of the fact that the Victory Bell, which resembles the Liberty Bell without the crack, was used on a Louisiana plantation as a signaling device to inform enslaved people when to move about the plantation.

The bell was cast in 1825. It was was donated to Tulane University by Richard W. Leche, a former governor of Louisiana and a graduate of the university’s law school. It was placed on campus in 1960 in front of the arena where the unviersity’s basketball games were played. When Tulane was victorious, students would ring the ball upon leaving the arena.

In a letter to the campus community, President Mike Fitts and Board Chairman Doug Hertz, stated that “it is terribly disheartening to learn that it is, in fact, a vestige of a horrific part of our nation’s past. Now that we understand its history as an instrument of slavery, continuing to use this bell in a celebratory manner would run counter to our values.”

The bell was placed in storage until the university further investigates its past and decides what to do with it. In their statement, Fitt and Hertz went on to say that “as an academic institution, we believe it is important to find a way to use this bell to further our knowledge and understanding of slavery and pursue a more just society. Although we have made real progress in building a university that better reflects our community and our highest values, the bell’s newly discovered past is a powerful reminder that the most tragic and painful elements of our nation’s history continue to echo through our communities.”

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  1. One suggestion: Hold a campus-wide rally and reduce the bell to a molten state. Then, re-cast the metal into a statute befitting the memory of the untold number of slaves whom the original bell was used to summon.

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