On April 13, the School of Theology announced in a newsletter that the previously-named DuBose Lectures would be renamed the Annual Alumni Lectures.
The School of Theology cited DuBose’s personal and theological views on slavery for removing his name from the Lectures, which increasingly focus on themes of racial reconciliation.
The previous namesake was a theologian in the Episcopal Church, chaplain of the Confederate army, slave owner, and was once a dean of the School of Theology. DuBose began a tradition of delivering lecture series as “intimate talks,” and the Lectures pull speakers, theologians, and alumni in a type of “homecoming” for the School of Theology. This year’s lectures will also act as the graduation for the School’s Class of 2020 and the installment of Dean James Terrell as Dean of the School of Theology.
Ashley Simpson (T’22), a Seminarian from the Diocese of East Carolina, said the event is “basically a chance for students, staff, and faculty to gather and listen to speakers as a community.”
Simpson is also involved in the Working Group for the Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation, and said that the name change “has been in the works for a long time.”
She said, “I’m glad that the name has finally changed. It is a great way for us to be acknowledging our past and moving forward; it was problematic that we had our lecture series named after someone who thought that slavery wasn’t a sin.” Simpson added that the timing of the change was particularly relevant. While lectures often have a distinct topic, this lecture series marks the culmination of a three-year series on race and reconciliation.
Additionally, she said there is “something deeply troubling about asking Black women to come and speak about racial justice and reconciliation in a lecture named after someone who didn’t value their heritage and their humanity.”
According to Simpson, everyone at the School of Theology is appreciative of the change: “We haven’t heard any negative feedback, and while we knew it was in the works, we didn’t know how fast the name would be changing.”
In her work with the Roberson Project, Simpson also felt it important to note that, “Just down the street in Monteagle there is a DuBose Conference Center. There are signs of his presence everywhere. He has the largest headstone in the cemetery here.”
Gabriel Perkins-Lawrence (T’22) the Chair of the Creation Care Committee and Manager of the Seminary Garden, said “while I have only attended one [lecture series], it was a great experience, and I really appreciate that the School of Theology sets aside intentional space and time to invite other voices into our seminary community.”
While he enjoyed the majority of the program, he said Dr. Emilie Townes’s lectures “especially stuck with me. She pointed out the importance for us white folk to relearn what we have been taught, and incorporate into that relearning the Black experience.”
Perkins-Lawrence explained that this “points to the importance of the lectures: they are a chance for real theological work to happen. I think it’s valuable to have another voice in our theological education, especially with the last lecture, a voice of color.”
“It means making an intentional connection between theology and the work of social justice,” he continued, “especially as it pertains to Sewanee. It is also a chance to see a world-renowned theologian.”
In the future, Perkins-Lawrence hopes that “minority voices are still given priority; that we continue to make room for marginalized voices, and in every aspect of our education at the School of Theology. Our time spent here will only be enriched if BIPOC voices are intentionally included in our education and experiences.”
“I’m glad that we’re finally doing the work, not just talking about the work,” he said. “That we are confronting the past. We’re finally allowing ourselves to sit in the discomfort of dealing with the history of this University. Townes talked about the importance of sitting in the discomfort and lamenting what we have too long ignored, or brushed over, or not allowed ourselves to feel. Honest lament has to be the foundation of this work.”