Established in 2021, the DeLaney Center is an interdisciplinary academic forum that promotes teaching and research on race and Southern identity. It serves as a resource for students and faculty in all three of Washington and Lee's academic units - the College, the School of Law, and the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics.
Taking full advantage of the university's Virginia location and extensive archival holdings, the center provides unique opportunities for students, faculty, alumni, community partners, and higher education colleagues to ponder how W&L's long and complex history intersects with the racial issues that have defined and continue to shape both the U.S. South and the entire country.
The center serves our campus by encouraging the creation of new courses, facilitating faculty scholarship, and advancing student production of original research and creative work. Recognizing W&L's status as a neighbor, it also hosts film showings, site visits, symposia, lectures, conferences, and other programming that build our community. We strive to foster liberty.
DeLaney Center Saturdays occur three times each academic year. Dedicated to the tenets of place-based learning, this program invites a group of students, community members, faculty, and staff to explore civil rights sites in Virginia. These trips feature encounters with on-location experts, a shared meal, and debriefing via small and large group conversations.
While Washington and Lee desegregated in the 1960s, it was not until 1985 that women undergraduates were first admitted to the University. The Black Women and Desegregation Project seeks to capture the unique experiences of Black women who matriculated during the first thirty coeducated classes at W&L. Alongside the University Library and the Office of Institutional History, current undergraduate students work with the DeLaney Center Postbaccalaureate Fellow to explore, research, and conduct an extended oral history project that openly and honestly registers the stories and the voices of these pivotal alumni.
If you are a Black woman who graduated from Washington and Lee University between 1985 and 2015, and you are interested in having your experiences recorded, email the DeLaney Center Postbaccalaureate Fellow at firstname.lastname@example.org to hear more or get involved.
Distinguished scholars will visit Washington and Lee for a one-day symposium to discuss contemporary trends in the study of race and Southern life. Using their specific research preoccupations, they will offer conclusions about the position of the South in American self-definition. Their explorations will provide analytical anchors for the DeLaney Center's pursuit of its mission.
The Screen to Square Film Series unites a transgenerational audience of students, community members, faculty, and staff in the common experience of enjoying a meal and viewing a film that engages race and Southern self-definition. Following the screening, a panel of firsthand observers and research experts shares their insights and leads the audience into a free-flowing conversation. This sharing does not guarantee interpretive consensus; however, participants recall their common investment in human thriving. Through such recollection, individuals discover alternate possibilities for performing their social duties.
The 2023-2024 Screen to Square Film Series will present four films tied to the theme "Turning Points in the Civil Rights Movement."
DeLaney Dialogues are curated exchanges about Southern race relations, culture, and politics. During an hourlong session, a presenter will offer fresh ideas about a regionally resonant theme. The audience engages both the speaker and their peers. Exhibiting innovative strategies for teaching, researching, and addressing Southern racial realities, these programs allow audience members to imagine how this protean region fits into broader professional and public possibilities.
Freedom Ride is a five-day orientation experience for incoming first year Washington and Lee students. Inspired by a spring term course created by center namesake, Ted DeLaney, this program encourages students to view the black freedom struggle as a mirror for their transition from high school to college and their community-building in a complicated Southern environment. Freedom Ride commences with a look at the circumstances that led young people in 1961 to board buses and travel throughout the Jim Crow south. After noting this backdrop, students, trip leaders, faculty, and staff get on their own bus to visit cities with rich connections to the civil rights movement like Farmville, VA, Atlanta, GA, and Greensboro, NC. They use these visits to examine how racial injustice, resistance, and memorialization influence 21st century democratic unity.
In 2021, Washington and Lee University named its new interdisciplinary academic center for teaching and research on Southern race relations, culture, and politics in honor of late professor of history emeritus Theodore "Ted" Carter DeLaney Jr. '85.
DeLaney's scholarship focused on the untold histories of African Americans in Virginia, including his research on John Chavis, who was the first known African American to receive a college education in the United States in the 18th century and who studied at Liberty Hall Academy. In addition, DeLaney recorded oral histories of western Virginians directly involved in the battle over school desegregation 15 years after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling. Much of his research found its way into his courses and the presentations he developed for alumni colleges, class reunions, neighboring colleges, museums and historical societies. DeLaney's own oral history is now part of W&L's Special Collections.
During his career at W&L, DeLaney taught courses on colonial North America, comparative slavery in the Western Hemisphere, African American history, civil rights, and gay and lesbian history. His popular Spring Term course on the civil rights movement took students on the path of the Freedom Riders through the South, while his course on the institutional history of W&L introduced students to archival research in W&L's Special Collections & Archives.In 2005, DeLaney co-founded the Africana Studies Program, which he directed from 2005-07 and again from 2013 to 2017. He chaired the History Department from 2007 to 2013 and was the first Black department head at W&L. He also served on both the Working Group on the History of African Americans at W&L and the 2018 Commission on Institutional History and Community.
"Ted was known to people across the W&L community as a wise, thoughtful, and generous teacher whose passion for justice and inclusion was evident both in the classroom and in his scholarship," said W&L President William C. Dudley in announcing the center's name. "Ted's work provided keen insights into the history of the university and the local community. His personal history and the example that he set for all of us represent the best of the university's core values. The center that bears Ted's name will be a model for the work that was so important to him and remains so critical to the understanding and advancement of our society in the future."