Exploring How a University’s Historical Involvement in Slavery Relates to Black Students’ College Choice, Experiences, and Outcomes

Many American universities established early in this nation’s history were involved in the institution of slavery and have begun the process of acknowledging this involvement in the development of their institutions. Recent reports include Brown University’s Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice (2006), Harvard University’s (2011) “Seeking a Forgotten History” report, College of William and Mary’s Lemon Project (2009), and Yale University’s (2001) “Yale, Slavery, and Abolition” report. The movement to better understand the relationship between universities and the legacies of slavery has resulted in the multi-institutional collaboration Universities Studying Slavery (USS) to gather additional research and propose recommendations. However, such research has largely focused on better understanding the past, and has yet to explore how this context may affect current students’ college choice, academic and social engagement, daily behaviors, learning, and satisfaction. This study seeks to address this gap and examine whether a university’s history with slavery relates to black students’ college choice, sense of belonging, engagement, learning, and satisfaction. As some universities have already taken steps to seek reconciliation, this study seeks to provide empirical evidence on the various ways this important history may affect current students to more comprehensively understand and address this history. Through survey data this proposed research study seeks to collect data from current undergraduate students of African descent at several universities that are a part of the USS. Findings from the study will allow faculty and administrators at many higher education institutions throughout the U.S. Northeast and South to better understand and engage with this history and recommend interventions to facilitate their black students’ success.