The good and the bad of history

This year William & Mary is about to celebrate it’s 325th birthday, a momentous occasion in its history. To start off, I was wondering what does William & Mary mean to you?

To me William & Mary represents history. This history is reflected in the present day too. We are all built upon this “One Tribe, One Family,” ideology  and even when you get a campus tour, you hear some of these William & Mary famous alumni who have walked across the Crim Dell Bridge. It’s all pretty much built upon this history. And that’s what William & Mary means to me.

You’re part of the spotswood society right? Can you tell me about that.

So the spotswood society gives tours of the wren building, so we know this building front and back. We know all the history, so if anyone has a question or just wants to know about the building we can answer it.

What do you think are some things about W&M’s history that most people don’t know?

I think most people don’t know that this building was burnt down three times. But I think they also don’t know that this building was built by slavery. I don’t know if they don’t know it, but they tend to push it towards the back of their minds. As part of the Spotswood Society, it is part of our job to make sure that comes to the forefront.

Could you talk about that a little bit? I want to learn more about it.

This building was built by actual slaves and was managed by slaves. Where we have the sunken gardens now is where slaves used to be chopping wood and management for the building. Students here in 1700’s, some people used to be allowed to bring their slaves with them, to clean their rooms and stuff. That is usually not something that is advertised.

Do you think that affects the way we think about W&M and its legacy?

I think it should. I think that students should know that there is this past history. It is an issue that has affected me obviously because I do a lot of social justice work on campus. I think it should affect everyone . I know in the past there has been issues with the Thomas Jefferson statue. And I think they are valid. If we are going to idolize these people, then we should know the bad parts too. Same with the school. If we idolize the school, we should know the bad parts too.

Has that affected your personal views or experiences at the college?

I think it shapes some of my interactions at the university. Sometimes the history and its past issues with slavery and race are ignored here on campus. I think a select group of people who are like “This is what happened, now everyone else needs to see it.” A lot of time it is just ignored. It made me hesitant to join the Spotswood Society a little bit. I wanted it to be a big part of what we talk about. And I know they have been pushing it recently, and now it is a part of our training. We are required to have some knowledge of it. It is very slight.

Do you think there are ways that W&M can get better at those types of issues?

Even the brochures that we have, they don’t necessarily have much about slavery. This is more like “This is where the rich white boys came in the 1700s.” Maybe they will mention the Native American School across the street and how some of them were in this class in this building separated from white students by partition. But I think it is important that it is more in your face when you walk in the building.

So observationally I notice that you are reading a book on race in North America. How has taking those classes been part of your experiences here.

I think it has definitely been important. It has definitely pushed things into perspective with history and put into perspective civil rights and other slavery issues seen in the United States. I definitely think it is important and honestly should be a requirement that everyone takes a class here related to that topic. It really opens your life to things going on around you, in other aspects too not just race.

Anything else that you want to talk about during the time that I am here, about you, life, Spotswood?

I would just say for anyone interested in Spotswood to just do it. I think it  is even more important that more students of color join spotswood too, there are too few of us. And when people of color talk about these issues, it puts it in perspective.

I hear that Spotswood Society does sleepovers in Wren.

I think once a semester we have the building for a night and we usually sleep in the building, which is kind of creepy. And our senior year too, there is another tradition where there is a crypt underneath the chapel, and we go crypt crawling. So there’s more than just history, there is some cool perks.

Any other cool perks that people interested should know about?
We usually do lantern tours around parents weekend and all go together in Colonial Williamsburg to Chowning’s Tavern or something like that. That’s always fun.

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