Joseph Vaughn Day History
On January 29, 1965, Joseph Vaughn walked across Furman’s campus as the university’s first African American undergraduate student, with each step representing a significant stride toward racial equality. On January 29, 2020, Furman started an annual tradition, Joseph Vaughn Day, to honor the man who took those first bold steps.
Joseph Vaughn Day builds on a student walk held on January 29, 2019, from Furman Hall to the Duke Library. The walk was organized by Adare Smith ’20 and sponsored by the English department. It is also one of many initiatives that stem from the work of the Task Force on Slavery and Justice, which sought to understand and acknowledge the university’s historical connections with slavery. In its “Seeking Abraham” report, the task force made a number of recommendations, including tangible ways to recognize on campus the contributions of African Americans to the university. In May of 2019, the Board of Trustees approved several recommendations related to physical changes to the campus, including commissioning a statue of Vaughn and creating a place of celebration and reflection.
2023 Joseph Vaughn Day Speeches
Joseph Allen Vaughn
Read the biography of Furman's first Black student.
The bronze statue honors the historic courage of Joseph Vaughn.
Sculptor Steven Whyte was commissioned to create a statue of Joseph Vaughn ’68, Furman’s first African American undergraduate student.
Joseph Vaughn Plaza establishes a place for reflection and celebration of those who helped to make the university a more equitable and inclusive place.
Joseph Vaughn Day Timeline
Joseph Vaughn Statue Unveiling
On April 16, 2021, Furman unveiled the Joseph Vaughn statue in front of the Duke Library on the new Joseph Vaughn Plaza. Read the news release. Opening and Closing Musical Selections - Greenville Baha'i Community...Continue Reading >
Joseph Vaughn Day Commemoration and Walk
On January 29, 2020, hundreds of people gathered around the steps of James B. Duke Library as the Furman University Gospel Ensemble filled the crisp winter air with harmonies to begin Joseph Vaughn Day, honoring...Continue Reading >
Board of Trustees approves Joseph Vaughn Day and Statue
On May 18, 2019, The Furman University Board of Trustees approved the recommendation made by the board’s Special Committee on Slavery and Justice to have an annual Joseph Vaughn commemorative day and celebration. The university...Continue Reading >