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Shaw University Creates Center for Racial and Social Justice

Raleigh, NC – (June 26, 2020) – Shaw University today announced the creation of The Center for Racial and Social Justice (CRSJ) at Shaw University. The purpose of the CRSJ is to enable meaningful social change by fostering engagement around civil and human rights, spiritual formation, discernment and social justice. The CRSJ also will support the development of healthy congregations and communities.

The CRSJ will feature a series of lectures, research activities, and academic programs that celebrate the University’s rich heritage of racial and social justice advocacy since its founding in 1865, and advance the understanding of racial and social justice. The center will introduce a series of certificate programs that promote activism, strategic thinking and leadership development to confront the nation’s and world’s great challenges related to racial and ethnic differences.

“Shaw University has been at the forefront of the movement to promote human and civil rights and social justice throughout its history,” said Dr. Paulette Dillard, president of Shaw University. “Creating the Center for Racial and Social Justice at Shaw will honor that tradition, but more importantly, enable Shaw and those who share our values and concerns to carry that tradition and commitment forward.”

The research focus of the CRSJ will incorporate and build upon the work conducted through the University’s Institute for Health, Social, and Community Research, which seeks to address health and mortality disparities among underserved populations. 

Dean Johnny Bernard Hill and Dean Valerie Ann Johnson, both recognized scholars and activists, will serve as the CRSJ’s interim Co-Directors. Both bring the resources and talents of their respective schools – Divinity and Arts, Sciences and Humanities – to this initiative. The work of the CRSJ will be conducted and supported in part through partnerships with other higher education institutions and entities committed to social justice, including the FaithHealth Ministries division of Wake Forest Baptist Health.

A major component of the CRSJ is the Ella Baker Institute, named in honor of the legendary justice advocate and Shaw alumna, Ella Josephine Baker. Baker was a driving force behind the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on Shaw’s campus in 1960. The Ella Baker Institute will center on fostering the development of skills that enable students to be visionary leaders. Specific activities will include academic courses that provide leadership skill development, workshops and training opportunities that target specific skills like critical thinking, analysis and writing, and many others.

The CRSJ will initially be housed in the historic Leonard Hall, the former location of the Leonard Medical School at Shaw University.