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President's Message: Black History Month

February 3, 2021


President Laurie Patton sent the following message in an email to the Middlebury campus communities.

Dear Middlebury Community,

February is Black History Month. As events of the past year have demonstrated, it is as crucial as ever that we face up to and address our nation’s racial past. Last winter brought calls for reflection about our history and how we include the stories of enslaved peoples. Summer saw the national reckoning on race and violence against Black people. Fall and winter were a time of political debate in which we elected the first Black woman as our vice president and the first Black senator from Georgia. And last month, we witnessed a violent insurrection at the Capitol Building that brought back painful, hateful symbols of the oppression of Black people.

We commemorate Black History Month by continuing the essential work of self-reflection and intentional anti-racism—a response to a tumultuous time and a call, long past due, for true equity and inclusion. 

Our Middlebury efforts this past year have included demonstrations and calls for racial justice. We have developed an anti-racism initiative, with a curriculum to educate around critical issues and opportunities for storytelling, in which community members share their personal experiences as well as their insights about our own, and our collective, histories. The Senior Leadership Group has engaged in weekly readings and listening sessions, with the intent to understand and craft meaningful policy institution-wide. The Board of Trustees has instituted its own diversity, equity, and inclusion committee, parallel to and interacting with faculty and student DEI committees, and began its work of reflection and engagement at the board meeting this past week.

This work is deepened by the Twilight Project, which focuses on the archives all around us, and where, in a J-term course, students are bringing to light the stories and voices of underrepresented people throughout Middlebury’s history.

Even if you are not involved in these efforts, we ask that you spend time this month reading and thinking about the deep changes that can and must occur when Black history is truly part of the American story. The Black Student Union and the Anderson Freeman Resource Center on the Vermont campus and Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation (WCAPS) and the Shades student organization at MIIS will host events for students throughout the month. Please contact them for more details.

The Middlebury Libraries offer two rich and important resources for books, music, film, and podcasts to celebrate and reflect on Black history: the Black History Digital Display at MIIS and the Black Life and Culture Digital Display at the College.

We are grateful for your participation—your thoughtful and constructive efforts and conversations—which will help us become a stronger, more equitable Middlebury community.

With appreciation,

Laurie Patton
President

Miguel Fernández
Chief Diversity Officer