Updated: Mar 17
On Wednesday, March 1, the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Common Experience Committee hosted the third installment of the De-Lux Brunch. This event included student research projects on historical figures and traditions at Meredith. BSU also live streamed the event on their Instagram account as an additional option for attendance. Destiny Calvin, ‘25, facilitated the event and moderated the student research panel. A final De-Lux Brunch event will be held on March 29.
Similar to the other De-Lux Brunch events, this was entirely student led. The event began with opening remarks from Calvin and a presentation on Thomas Meredith, the founder of Meredith College. Madison Weiss, ‘23, conducted her senior thesis research on Meredith’s view of slavery in the South.
Many of the quotes Weiss found showed that Meredith justified slavery through Bible verses and personal interpretations. Meredith called slavery a “public good” that wasn’t condemned through the Bible. He also said that the gospel wouldn’t “require the slaveholder to impoverish himself” by getting rid of enslaved people.
Weiss then joined a panel of three other student researchers: Inaya Rivera, ‘22, Hayden Howlett, ‘23 and Landt Smith, ‘23. They each conducted research on various Meredith figures and traditions, including R.T. Vann, J.Y. Joyner and Ida Poteat.
Howlett, Rivera and Smith were the first to take a course titled The History of Meredith that was created by Dr. Daniel Fountain of the History Department. Calvin had also taken the course with them, using that knowledge to “provide input into the discussion.” Most of the students took the course with varying expectations. From needing a credit to wanting to learn more about the College, each student was surprised by how hands-on the course was.
Calvin was shocked by the discrepancy between the information they uncovered and what prospective students are told about the institution. “When you’re here, it’s like you’re very much blinded by not knowing the history,” she stated. “You’re presented this history that’s glamorizing [historical figures] on campus.”
Weiss was interested in the way that Meredith and other clergymen from the time used scripture to justify slavery. “He made scripture fit his desired narrative,” she said. “Which, ironically, is what I feel that Meredith is doing in regards to the information about Thomas Meredith.”
Rivera believed the research was important for other students to know about. “Everyone deserves to know the facts about where you’re spending your money and a lot of your time,” she said.
Smith researched the KKK Art Club that was started and founded by Ida Poteat. Because the acronym is also used by the Ku Klux Klan, Smith had questions about what the art club’s purpose was. “If anyone saw that without any explanation, it would look bad,” Smith said. She saw it as an opportunity to clarify misinformation about the school and determine if there was a connection to the other information they’d uncovered.
Howlett explained that many of these figures were spoken of as advocates for women’s education, and that the information they’d uncovered wasn’t shared at Meredith. “I learned that people were blissfully unaware of the truth behind the actions of people that they knew to be good,” she said. “I felt it was necessary to share this information widely so that people can come to terms with this research and they can formulate their own opinions.”
Dr. Fountain spoke with The Herald about the importance of recruiting a diverse group of students to conduct the research. “Good scholarship draws on many voices and perspectives so diversity is always a goal,” he said. He hopes that this event draws more student awareness and diversity for the course.
As for the panelists, they reiterated the importance of sharing their research with as many people as possible. “Sharing this history is simply a matter of what is right and just,” they said.
For those who attended, BSU and the Common Experience Committee ask that they fill out the feedback survey form to improve events in the future.
By Aminah Jenkins, Editor in Chief
Correction: the original article stated that Ida Poteat was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The Universities Studying Slavery (USS) has not found any evidence indicating that Poteat was a member or linking Poteat's art club to the group. Additionally, the article stated that this was the final De-Lux Brunch event of the year. Another event will be held on March 29.