February 27, 2020
Dear Tulane Community,
In 2015, we formed the Presidential Commission on Race and Tulane Values with the goal of fostering an environment in which respect, inclusion and human dignity are embraced by all members of our campus community.
In light of our efforts to advance inclusivity and raise our cultural consciousness, we were deeply saddened to learn last week that the university's Victory Bell, forged in 1825, was originally a plantation bell. Plantation bells were used to direct the movements of enslaved Africans throughout their day.
Our historical archives confirmed the origins of the bell and that the bell came to Tulane in 1960-61. For decades it was rung to celebrate Tulane basketball victories. In 2011, the bell was installed in front of McAlister Auditorium. Hands touched and hearts embraced what had become a symbol of the Tulane spirit. It is terribly disheartening to learn that it is, in fact, a vestige of a horrific part of our nation's past. Now that we understand its history as an instrument of slavery, continuing to use this bell in a celebratory manner would run counter to our values as a university community.
Earlier today, we moved the bell to storage while we continue to conduct an in-depth investigation of its exact origins. As an academic institution, we believe it is important to find a way to use this bell to further our knowledge and understanding of slavery and pursue a more just society.
We have also moved to form a special committee comprised of board members, students, faculty, alumni and staff to recommend what should replace the Victory Bell in the central location in front of McAlister Auditorium. In doing so, we hope to establish a new tradition that truly represents a victory for all.
Although we have made real progress in building a university that better reflects our community and our highest values, the bell’s newly discovered past is a powerful reminder that the most tragic and painful elements of our nation's history continue to echo through our communities. It is also a reminder that we must be ever vigilant, ever humble and ever open to examining our own beliefs and practices as we continue to foster a more inclusive community.
Chair, Board of Tulane