By Lolita Buckner Inniss & Skyler Arbuckle

Abstract

People who practiced slavery across the United States, or engaged in slavery-related practices, were often the same civically-minded social, legal, and economic leaders who founded the nation’s first colleges and universities. There was, thus, from our earliest times, an unacknowledged but firm tie between the values and high ideals of the academy that existed in stark contraposition to the horrors of human bondage that fueled those institutions. Many North American colleges founded before the Civil War relied on money derived from the elite members of society with direct involvements in slavery. While a growing body of scholarly work discusses early colleges’ and universities’ substantial interactions with slavery, relatively little work has addressed the role of slavery at academic institutions founded after the Civil War and the general emancipation of enslaved people. This Article, part of a larger project, looks at the role of slavery at some postbellum institutions. The focus here is on Texas slavery, which came into wider public attention with the adoption of Juneteenth as a national holiday in June 2021. Many postbellum Texas colleges and universities and their founders had extensive ties to slavery and slavery-related practices. This was no less true at Southern Methodist University (SMU), and for one of its key founding families, the Caruths.

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Recommended Citation
Lolita Buckner Inniss & Skyler Arbuckle, Slavery and the Postbellum University: The Case of SMU, 74 SMU L. Rev. 723 (2021)