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New Funding to Support Spelman College Educational Initiative Focused on Reparations


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Jazmyn Burton
Spelman College
404-7985212
jburton8@spelman.edu
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ATLANTA (February 25, 2021) While Congress continues to mull over the decades-old “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act (HB-40),” which has been introduced in legislative sessions since 1989, Spelman College students and faculty members are researching solutions to address the generational impact of the transatlantic slave trade.

Through a collaboration between the Reparations Project and Spelman’s Social Justice Program, a new cohort of Quarterman & Keller Social Justice Scholars will be working on research projects focused on land ownership and racial injustice tied to America’s legacy of slavery. 

The Quarterman-Keller Scholars Program is the first educational initiative established by the Reparations Project, newly formed nonprofit managed by the descendants of an enslaved coastal Georgia family and the descendants of their enslavers. 

“The Social Justice Scholars Fellows Program is excited to partner with Sarah Eisner and Randy Quarterman, and the Reparations Project. This initiative will continue to build upon the legacy of the College,” said Cynthia Neal Spence, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology and director of Spelman’s Social Justice Fellows Program. “We have always supported anti-racist work and community transformation toward a more just and equitable society. It will be very exciting to work with fellows representing the Atlanta University Center as we commit to social justice advocacy and learn more about the work of scholar and activists engaged with reparations agendas. 

During the fall 2020 semester, students from Spelman, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, began meeting virtually with historians in Port Wentworth and Savannah, Georgia to begin the process of collecting the oral histories of the Keller and Quarterman families, and other families who reside in coastal Georgia.

Spelman’s Social Justice Scholars are also supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, in partnership with the University of Michigan Center for Social Solutions to further interrogate the varied ways community narratives can inform policies addressing reparations.  The Andrew Mellon Foundation awarded grants to multiple higher education partners, as part of the Foundation’s Just Futures initiative.

Through funding from Just Futures, the Quarterman-Keller scholars will be able to deepen their research into the social, historical and political impact of slavery, said Dr. Spence.

“We hope to use this opportunity to create a formal platform for the study of the historical and contemporary impact and imprint of the period of enslavement and land dispossession in the state of Georgia,” she said. “It is our hope that community engagements, in-depth study, analysis and interrogation of scholarship, oral history collection, and curation will yield a body of knowledge that will inform public-facing strategies for reparations.”

The Reparations Foundation is a charitable public fund created by  Sarah Eisner, a descendant of the Keller family. The name Quarterman intentionally comes first to center and honor the enslaved, Zeke Quarterman, and his descendants. George Adam Keller, Sarah’s great-great-great-grandfather, enslaved Zeke Quarterman, Randy’s great-great-great-grandfather, on Coldbrook Plantation, in Georgia. 

“We created The Reparations Project because we believe that we cannot wait for the government alone to provide programs for redress and healing, though we believe our government must also do the work of truth telling and begin the work of paying reparations in a multitude of ways,” said Eisner. “We want to create new models for individuals, descendant-families, and the nation to repair racialized, caste-based injustice against African American communities that began in 1619 and continues today.”

About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by U.S. News & World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 54 among all liberal arts colleges, No. 19 for undergraduate teaching, No. 4 for social mobility among liberal arts colleges, and No. 1 for the 14th year among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Recent initiatives include a designation by the Department of Defense as a Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, a Gender and Sexuality Studies Institute, the first endowed queer studies chair at an HBCU, and a program to increase the number of Black women Ph.D.s in economics. New majors have been added, including documentary filmmaking and photography, and partnerships have been established with MIT’s Media Lab, the Broad Institute and the Army Research Lab for artificial intelligence and machine learning. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, Starbucks Group President and COO Rosalind Brewer, political leader Stacey Abrams, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, actress and producer Latanya Richardson Jackson, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones. For more information, visit www.spelman.edu.

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Hazel D. Dean

Large Blue Quote LeftMy choice to change the world occurred at Spelman through hard work and perseverance. I realized very early in my college career that you are expected to excel and lead — a requirement of being a Spelman woman. Additionally, you are expected to be a change agent and be in service to others. Spelman provided my foundation for impactful leadership, and affirmed my life’s work of being a change agent in service for the public’s health. --- Hazel D. Dean, ScD, MPH, FAC, C'83, Deputy Director at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

Spelman Alumna Mya Harvard

Large Blue Quote LeftAt Spelman, I was taught by distinguished professors who looked like me and genuinely cared about my success. I had sisters who constantly encouraged me and helped me build an unbreakable confidence. I also learned about my history and my community in refreshing and unique ways. Overall, my experience at Spelman was priceless and I will cherish it forever.” ---Mya Havard, Product Manager at Dropbox