A historic women’s college in Georgia apologized Thursday for its past connections to racism and the Ku Klux Klan.
Wesleyan College in Macon said on its website that it was “sorry for the pain that parts of our past have caused and continue to cause.”
The school said that when it was founded as the world’s first college chartered to grant women degrees, “the economy of the South was based on the sin of slavery” and its students were part of a society “steeped in racism, classism and sexism.”
That lead to school rituals “that today remind us of the Klan’s terrorism” and the decision to name one of the school’s student classes after “the hate-espousing Ku Klux Klan.”
In addition, students did “appalling things,” including “treating some African-Americans who worked on campus like mascots,” the school said.
Although Wesleyan students changed the rituals and the class names, “they also remind us that our history did not stop with those words and images,” the college said.
“While we at Wesleyan College, like many throughout the world, continue to struggle with both the legacy and presence of intolerance and hatred, we rejoice that our students today continue to challenge us and lead us forward,” the school’s statement said.
Colleges and universities have been grappling with their historical connections with slavery.
Georgetown University and the group of Catholic priests that founded the Washington, D.C., school have apologized for selling slaves in 1838 to raise money to pay off the college’s debts. And the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors has unanimously approved the design for a memorial honoring the contributions of slaves who helped build and maintain the school.
Wesleyan said it will continue to examine its history.
“Wesleyan can be a community where all kinds of people are able to know, trust, learn from, and care for one another. Our story is one of hope, where the lessons of history make us stronger,” the school said.
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