Furman University to Honor First Black Student

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm May 24, 2019

The board of trustees for Furman University, in Greenville, South Carolina, unanimously approved recommendations made by the board’s Special Committee on Slavery and Justice to create “a statue and day of celebration to honor the late Joseph Vaughn, the university’s first African-American student,” the university said in a statement released Wednesday (May 22).

The statue of Vaughn, who enrolled at Furman in 1965, will live in a prominent place on campus and the university is working to create an annual Joseph Vaughn commemorative day and celebration. The first Black women to enroll, Lillian Brock-Flemming and Sarah Reese, will also be celebrated on campus.

The board also approved the renaming of the school’s lakeside housing area to the Clark Murphy Housing Complex, “in honor of Clark Murphy, an African-American who worked for decades as a groundskeeper at the Greenville Woman’s College, which later merged with Furman University.”

Additionally, the university pledged to review the institution’s mission, values, vision and motto with an eye toward more inclusive updates and to add plaques and markers around the campus that acknowledge the full scope of its history and the people who shaped it. The work is part of Furman’s push to examine its ties to slavery and the legacy left in its wake.

“The trustees are pleased to approve the recommendations made by the Special Committee on Slavery and Justice, which will guide Furman in fully acknowledging and sharing its history to foster a more inclusive future,” said Alec Taylor, chair of the board.