William Peace University Shares Findings of Historical Research

Mar 22, 2022

RALEIGH, N.C. – William Peace University today announced the results of findings from a task force created to conduct research into areas where the institution’s history may or may not have intersected with white supremacy, slavery, and/or racism. 

The university issued the following statement acknowledging task force findings:

William Peace University is in continuous pursuit of being a place where our diversity is celebrated, inclusion is practiced, and respect is commonplace. As a reflection of the university’s commitment, a task force was created during the 2020-21 academic year to conduct research in key areas and identify parts of our history that are not consistent with our current values as an institution. We knew that to move forward, we must understand our history as an institution and where it may/may not intersect with white supremacy, slavery, and/or racism.

The initial findings by the task force reveal areas in our history that are diametrically opposed to our current values. Today, we are publicly acknowledging those findings. We are making this public acknowledgment because living our values today requires us to reckon with the hard truths of our past.

The initial findings include the following:

  • Mr. William Peace, for whom our university is named, owned enslaved people. The 1860 census records his ownership of fifty-one enslaved people.
  • The initial, most prominent, and enduring symbol of William Peace University is Main Building, which has served as a Confederate hospital, the Freedmen’s Bureau, and the iconic center of Peace Institute, Peace College, and William Peace University. Our research has revealed that the labor and skill that went into Main’s construction included that of enslaved people.
  • Past editions of the Peace yearbook, The Lotus (primarily prior to 1920), contain images and text that are objectionable, including racially stereotypical content and racial slurs. The 1946 edition is dedicated to Josephus Daniels who was complicit in the Wilmington Massacre of 1898.

Given these facts and believing the presence of the William Peace statue could create a divisive environment on campus, and keeping with our current values, The Board of Trustees voted in support of removing the statue of Mr. William Peace from campus. This vote included input from the Senior Leadership Team of the university and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

In addition to removing the statue, the university will begin with a Day of Acknowledgment on March 24th to enable our community to reflect on these findings. This will be followed by community input and listening sessions with our students, faculty/staff, alumni, and Board of Trustees. These listening sessions will allow us to interpret and process these facts as well as hear how we can reckon with and respond to our history in a way that makes us a better institution. We also recognize that uncovering history is an ongoing process, and we will be engaging an external researcher after the listening sessions have concluded to continue to research key pieces of the history of William Peace University. 

These listening sessions will occur over the next several weeks to allow ample time for inclusion and reflection. The process will be led by a third-party local diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consulting firm, The Diversity Movement, and in partnership with our Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Leah Young. We have published a calendar with timing and locations for these discussions on our website

The input and learnings from these discussions will be translated into a set of recommendations that will be shared with the university leadership and our Board of Trustees. We will then decide on the next steps we will take to move forward. The Board of Trustees and University leadership are committed to taking the appropriate action in a thoughtful and intentional manner. As an institution of inquiry, we believe it is imperative that we understand our past in order to create a better, more inclusive future for our entire community.

The university’s leadership, staff, student body and alumni have been made aware of these findings. 

University leadership understands the many emotions and questions these findings may unearth and desires to maintain an open dialogue with the university community as next steps are determined. Those next steps and updates will be added to the University’s website on the History page.

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