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Wake Forest President Apologizes for Slavery's Role in University's Past

FILE - A group walks across the lawn on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., May 28, 2014.

The president of Wake Forest University issued an apology Thursday for the role of slavery in the school's past.

The statement from Nathan Hatch came after a series of events that stirred up racial tension on the campus, including anonymous, racist emails sent to faculty members last year. Schools around the South and beyond have been grappling in recent years with what to do about past ties to slavery or white supremacy.

``It is important and overdue that, on behalf of Wake Forest University, I unequivocally apologize for participating in and benefiting from the institution of slavery,'' Hatch said during his remarks on campus. ``I apologize for the exploitation and use of enslaved people — both those known and unknown — who helped create and build this university through no choice of their own.''

He didn't mention the recent tension on the campus resulting from a threatening email that caused the head of the sociology department to shut down his building and suspend classes for a week. A statement issued after his remarks noted that Hatch last year convened a committee to look at race issues and the legacy of slavery on campus.

During Hatch's remarks, some students stood up in a silent demonstration. Senior Alexander Holt, who helped organize the gesture, said in an emailed statement before the event that the people planned to stand in recognition of the involuntary sacrifices of enslaved people and the continuing impact of slavery's legacy on current students.

Among other universities apologizing for their role in slavery was the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2018.