Addressing the Past

Message From Wesleyan College

Wesleyan recognizes that there have been portions of her past, both distant and all too recent, that have been painful, and we are deeply sorry.

We are working to learn about and understand our history and to make amends. During the process of uncovering and discussing our institution's past, we have learned of many things we still need to work on today. We are committed to inclusion, equality, and social justice for every member of the Wesleyan community. We are committed to listening to the concerns of all of our constituencies--students, alumnae, faculty, staff, and community members--and creating a supportive learning environment that welcomes everyone. We hope that all members of our community will help us move forward with our goal of creating a community where all are able to know, trust, learn from, and care for one another. Our story is one of hope, where the lessons of history make us stronger.

Signature of Vivia Fowler


Diversity and Inclusion at Wesleyan College: Addressing the Past, Looking to the Future

At Wesleyan College, we’re proud of many aspects of our past—of being the first college in the world chartered to grant degrees to women; of the transformative education thousands of Wesleyan students have earned; of the ways, big and small, in which our faculty, staff, and students have made the world better.

Like almost any longstanding American, and especially southern, institution, our history includes parts that are deeply troubling, and we are not proud of them. When Wesleyan was founded in 1836, the economy of the South was based on the sin of slavery. Wesleyan’s people were products of a society steeped in racism, classism, and sexism. They did appalling things—like students treating some African Americans who worked on campus like mascots, or deciding to name one of their classes after the hate-espousing Ku Klux Klan, or developing rituals for initiating new students that today remind us of the Klan’s terrorism.

Past Wesleyan students have left us with words and images that shock us today. They also remind us that our history did not stop with those words and images. And while we at Wesleyan College, like many throughout the world, continue to struggle with both the legacy and presence of intolerance and hatred, we rejoice that our students today continue to challenge us and lead us forward. 

Wesleyan values each member of its community. Our diversity is among our greatest strengths. We care for each other as an inclusive community and work together in service to the larger community that surrounds us.” That’s, in part, how we changed our College’s mission statement last year to state unequivocally who we are now. We are sorry for the pain that parts of our past have caused and continue to cause. We also celebrate how far our College has come and how we are striving to become the inclusive community we are called to be.

We’re working to make the words of our mission statement a lived reality on our campus. The diversity of our student body is unquestionably remarkable. About one quarter of our undergraduate students are international, representing more than twenty countries, and about one third are American women of color. We’re proud that our College, founded in the antebellum South, has so fully come to represent the diversity of our region, our country, and the world. We recognize that building an academic community where women of different faiths, different colors, different abilities, and different sexualities learn from and grow with one another must become the heart of our identity. Appreciating difference and cultivating inclusion isn’t just a wish at Wesleyan, it’s a necessity.

At Wesleyan. we try to value what’s good about our past and learn from what’s not. That requires us to know more about our past and to be accurate in our telling of it.  That’s why in 2016 we commissioned a study of our history that should be complete soon – helping us openly confront our past and figure out together what it means to our community today. Wesleyan can be a community where all kinds of people are able to know, trust, learn from, and care for one another.  Our story is one of hope, where the lessons of history make us stronger.  If you’d like to be part of it, let us know. And stay tuned for updates throughout the year.

June 2017





In August of 1968, five courageous women integrated Wesleyan College: Carolyn McClinton Woodard, Dyleane Taylor, Christine Everett, Marvette Renee Baldwin Jenkins, and Sonya Tomlinson Holland. Joining the Wesleyan student body during the late 60s meant facing many challenges, which they met head-on. By 1972, other black women were enrolled at Wesleyan, but these five were the first to graduate, with their sisters in 1972. Read more.


Wesleyan College has partnered with other U.S. colleges and universities that are studying and learning more about the historical role of slavery at their institutions. Learn more at Universities Studying Slavery.

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