Salem Academy and College, the liberal arts educational institution for women in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, recently released a report examining the college’s historic ties to slavery. The report was prepared by Grant McAllister, an associate professor of German and Russian at Wake Forest University, also in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Dr. McAllister’s familiarity with the German language was essential in conducting research of the early records of the Moravian Church.
The first permanent Moravian settlement in the United States was established in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1741. But the group soon founded settlements in other areas including North Carolina. Salem Academy and College was founded in 1772 by officials of the Moravian Church.
Dr. McAllister found that at least two enslaved African-American students were accepted at the school in the 1780s and the 1790s. He also discovered several instances where Salem officials bought, sold, or rented slaves for work on campus. By examining available ledgers for expenses, Dr. McAllister concludes that slaves were used at least in the years 1810 to 1840.
His report concludes that “the fact the Moravians embraced slavery, as evidenced through their owning and renting of slaves, must be as much a part of the narrative of their early history in North Carolina as is their history of welcoming slaves into their congregation and treating them as equals before God.”
D.E. Lorraine Sterritt, president of Salem Academy and College, stated that “Salem apologizes with profound remorse for the use of enslaved labor at the school. Understanding our history is critical to understanding our present and guiding us as we look to the future and seek healing.”
Today, African Americans 21 percent of the student body at Salem College.