Baylor University Issues a Report on Its Founders’ Ties to Slavery and the Confederacy

Baylor University in Waco, Texas, has released the report of the 26-member Commission on Historic Campus Representations, which was charged by the Baylor board of regents with reviewing and evaluating the historical record and context of the university and its early leaders solely related to slavery and the Confederacy.

First and foremost, the report stated that the institution will continue to be known as Baylor University and the statue of namesake Judge R.E.B. Baylor will maintain its current location on Founders Mall, despite the fact that he enslaved people. Mark Roundtree, chair of the board of regents stated that “Judge Baylor was not a perfect man. As a slaveholder, he engaged in a practice we know to be sinful and abhorrent. We do not justify or downplay the evil of slavery. With our university, Judge Baylor established the foundation for hundreds of thousands of students — which now include all races and creeds — to receive a unique educational experience that combines academic excellence and a Christian commitment. We will continue to recognize Judge Baylor for the founding of Baylor University, just as we commit to presenting a more complete history of the university,”

The report also found that in 1843, founders William Tryon and James Huckins were slaveowners while serving as employees of the American Baptist Home Mission Society. Hutchins later served as a chaplain in the Confederate Army.

Rufus Burleson, president of Baylor University from 1851 to 1861 was a slaveholder and served in the Confederate Army. He encouraged faculty and male students over 18 to join the fight against what he called “abolition despotism.” He was a prominent supporter of the “Lost Cause” movement following the war.

The report recommended efforts to more fully tell the story of the university’s founders with markers and displays at historical sites. The commission also recommended that “others who contributed to the successful founding of the university, including the unknown enslaved, are not memorialized in any way, and it is recommended by the Commission that this be rectified with a new installation.”

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