Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, has established an academic center dedicated to the study of historical and contemporary issues dealing with race and the legacies of slavery in modern American society. The Center for Studying Structures of Race will serve as a venue for teaching, research and community engagement about issues of race, and emphasize the examination of forms of institutional racism at local, national, and international levels.
Roanoke College was founded in 1842. While Roanoke College did not own slaves, the College’s earliest buildings — the Administration Building and Miller Hall — were constructed using the labor of enslaved people. Black students were not admitted until 1964. Today, African Americans make up 5 percent of the student body.
The new center will be under the direction of Jesse Bucher, associate professor of history at the college. “We need to have an honest and ongoing conversation about the college’s physical and financial heritage from slavery,” Dr. Bucher said. “Just as importantly, we must use those conversations to reflect on our own present day. The goal of this center is to teach and learn about and become compassionate about the ongoing presence of institutional racism in our society.”