In late Spring 2021, Washington University in St. Louis joined Universities Studying Slavery (USS). USS is a global consortium of academic institutions independently and collaboratively examining the relationships between their institutional histories and slavery, and addressing legacies of these connections.

Please visit the WashU & Slavery Project website to learn more about the initiative, including project research, creative work, teaching and learning opportunities, events, and ways to get involved.

Background and Organization

An organizing committee (below) convened by former CREAssociate Director Geoff Ward in Fall 2020 began examining relationships between slavery, its legacies, and our institution, and planning an initial approach to participation in the consortium. Several courses offered this academic year began engaging students in related research. The committee proposed an initial approach that draws from examples at several of the more than 70 schools across five countries active in USS. Chancellor Andrew Martin and Provost Beverly Wendland provided initial funding to support this project proposal and formally accepted the invitation for WashU to join Universities Studying Slavery. WashU & Slavery is based in the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity (CRE2), where Professor Ward has transitioned into the project director role. Building WashU & Slavery through CREwill aid its integration across the institution, interdisciplinary project design, and links to the strategic efforts of the center and other campus and community partners.


Kelly Schmidt joins WashU & Slavery as Postdoctoral Fellow

Kelly Schmidt

Postdoctoral Fellow, African and African American Studies

Collective Memory and Commemoration
Family
Migration
Repair work
Resistance
Slavery – Higher Education
Slavery – Religion

Dr. Kelly Schmidt has joined WashU & Slavery as a Postdoctoral Fellow. Dr. Schmidt completed a joint PhD in Public History and U.S. History at Loyola University Chicago in 2021. She is a public historian and digital humanist who specializes in African American history with a focus on slavery, racism, abolition, and resistance. She brings extensive knowledge and experience related to understanding and addressing the history of enslavement in St. Louis and the wider Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, including how it relates to higher education institutions. In 2016, she began studying the ways higher education institutions were addressing their connections to histories and legacies of slavery. From 2016 to 2021, while completing her dissertation research on people enslaved to the Jesuits in the central and southern United States, Kelly worked with Saint Louis University and the Jesuits of Canada and the United States as Research Coordinator for their joint Slavery, History, Memory, and Reconciliation Project (SHMR).

In that role and other capacities, including years volunteering and working at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Dr. Schmidt has developed an extensive record of public history work—in research and interpretation; museum education and exhibition development; digital media; archival collections and conservation; development of walking tours; and work with high school and college educators and students. Kelly will not only greatly enrich the research insights and project scope of the WashU & Slavery Project, but will also help advance our efforts to position WashU as a key partner in this important work of commemoration and reckoning in our region, through collaboration with academic and other institutional and community partners.

Dr. Schmidt’s appointments are formally in CRE2 and the Department of African and African-American Studies, but she will engage with various academic units and work closely with the libraries and museum, through project-related research, teaching, and creative work. Her time will be split between work on the WashU & Slavery Project and continued development of her scholarship on enslaved communities in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys, the focus of a book project tentatively titled “Their Earnest Desire to be Free”: Enslaved People, Jesuit Masters, and Negotiations for Freedom on American Borderlands, 1823-1930.


WashU & Slavery Organizing Committee

Geoff Ward

Director, WashU & Slavery; Professor of African and African American Studies; Sociology (Affiliate); American Culture Studies (Affiliate)

Histories of Racial Violence, Legacies, and Reckonings; Visual Redress; Youth Justice; Policing and Courts

William Acree

Interim Co-director, CRE2; Professor of Spanish; American Culture Studies (Affiliate) and Performing Arts (Affiliate)

Latin American Cultural History; Popular & Material Culture; Global Street Cultures; Public Space & State Formation; Afro-Latin America

Iver Bernstein

Professor of History

Slavery and Emancipation; African American Political Culture; Democratic Movements; Structural and Sexual Violence; the US Civil War; Politics of the Slavery Archive; Collective Memory

Elizabeth Childs

Etta and Mark Steinberg Professor of Art History and Chair, Department of Art History and Archaeology

Carl Craver

Professor of Philosophy and Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology

Karma Frierson

Assistant Professor of African and African-American Studies

Afro-Latin America; Cultural Politics; Expressive Culture; Identity; Multiculturalism; Popular Culture; Race and Ethnicity

Nadia Ghasedi

Associate University Librarian for Special Collections Services

Academic Libraries; Community Archives; Moving Image Preservation

Harriet Green

Associate University Librarian

Digital Humanities; Scholarly Communications; Data Curation; Leadership; Diversity in Libraries

Peter Kastor

Samuel K. Eddy Professor and Chair, Department of History

Dineo Khabele

Mitchell & Elaine Yanow Professor and Chair, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

David Konig

Professor of Law, Emeritus Professor of History

Michelle Purdy

Associate Professor

U.S. Educational Access and Opportunity; Equitable Educational Policies and Practices; Black Students’ Experiences; Archival Research; Oral History; Qualitative Methods

Miguel A Valerio

Assistant Professor of Spanish

Africans and Afro-descendants in colonial Latin America literature and culture
Africans and Afro-descendants in the Mediterranean
Africans and Afro-descendants in Renaissance and Baroque literature and culture
Black confraternities in the Iberian Empires
Renaissance and Baroque festival culture
Funeral rituals among black confraternities
Afro-Latin American literature and culture
The history of race and racism
Identity formation

Helina Woldekiros

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Ethnicity and foodways, health and human development, historical and ecological analysis, Identity, religion, and mortuary practice, State formation, Sustainable agriculture