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Slaveholding Students at Villanova College

Villanova College opened in 1842, more than twenty years before slavery was abolished in the U.S. The college drew students from throughout slaveholding and non-slaveholding states, and Villanova students from across the United States grew up in households that profited directly and indirectly from slavery and the white supremacy that sustained it.

In 1892 Villanova’s celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a Golden Jubilee. In those first fifty years, the college had overcome many obstacles—the most serious were financial. The school closed twice for lack of funds: first from 1845 to 1846 and then again from 1857 to 1865. During the latter period, many slaveholders stopped sending their sons to schools outside of the South for fear that they would absorb dangerous critiques about slaveholding. Many schools, including medical schools in Philadelphia, were forced to shut down when the tuition derived from the profits of slavery dried up. Villanova’s closure during this same period underscores the need for further research into the school’s connections to and funding from slavery.

Over two semesters in 2021, undergraduate and graduate students under the direction of University Researcher, Angelina Lincoln (VU ’20), began that process by selecting and studying the backgrounds of a small group of students who attended the college between the years 1851 and 1880. (These subjects were selected based on student interest and available primary source material. No effort was made to identify a representative sample.)

Click on the links below to explore what they learned. We at the Rooted Project hope this work will continue.

Robert Buggy, 1866-70

Philip Carroll, 1855-57

Benedict and Chrysostom Donahoe, 1853-55

Benjamin Rush III, 1852-54