By Anika Willander | Contributing Writer 

On Thursday, January 26th, 2023, Franklin and Marshall College hosted its first in-person Common Hour since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. James B. Duke Professor of Africana Studies at Davidson College and Dr. Hilary W. Green ’99, daughter of Nathaniel Green ’73, presented on “(Un)Silencing The Past: Reconciling Campus Histories of Race and Slavery.” Green began by listing the names of those who were not honored in the creation and founding of the University of Alabama. 

Dr. Green spoke of Ben, Moses, and William: three enslaved men who were in some way involved in the founding of the University of Alabama. She humanized them, bringing them to life through descriptions of the jobs they did and their hobbies. Ben was the first person to be owned by the University. Moses was a geology research lab assistant. William was a carpenter, a master of his craft, and owned by one of the University’s professors. Dr. Green’s interest in the history of the University of Alabama stems from her experience as a professor there. She posed a question to not only the Franklin and Marshall students, faculty, and staff of F&M, and the local Lancaster community— one that many academic institutions are starting to ask themselves: “How do we bring in the other people who were instrumental in building the institutions that we have today?” 

Dr. Green reiterated throughout her talk that although we need to investigate the past we must also unsilence the truth. She explained her work of unearthing the past and how she went about finding the people that were also a part of the story. She examined living documents, reports, newspapers, yearbooks, and the internet to find out the most she can about the people like Ben, Moses, and William. 

After this discussion, it is pertinent that Franklin and Marshall College prompt conversations about the history of our founders. While having Dr. Green present to address these questions and concerns is a great start to having difficult conversations, transparency is the key to owning our institution’s past. It is also important to recognize that this may not paint the prettiest picture for F&M. The image of our school is already tainted with the legacy of our founders, John Marshall and Benjamin Franklin, being involved in slavery, but not owning the history of our school will only continue the systemic injustice in high education. The University of Alabama is not the only institution with a grim past. We have statues of the school’s founders on campus that students pass every day; what is the impact of this on how we function as a diverse and inclusive institution today? How are we as a community going to come together to own up to this past, unsilence it, and reconcile it? We need to find and uncover the figures like Ben, Moses, and Williams of Franklin and Marshall and incorporate them into our new definition of the past. Only then can we reshape the future of our school. 

Anika Willander is a Contributing Writer. Her email is