Joseph Vaughn Plaza Construction Underway

Furman recently broke ground on the Joseph Vaughn Plaza, which will honor the first Black undergraduate student to attend Furman.

The $677,000 project will incorporate the front steps of James B. Duke Library and the nearby grassy area. Furman News

Construction on the Joseph Vaughn Plaza has begun outside of James B. Duke Library. Joseph Vaughn desegregated Furman in 1965, bravely becoming the University’s first Black undergraduate student. The plaza will be home to a statue honoring Vaughn and his legacy. According to administrators, the plaza, to be completed by January, will serve as “a place for reflection and celebration of those who helped to make the University a more equitable and inclusive place.”  

Vaughn’s statue is inspired by a photo taken during his first semester at Furman in 1965. An English major and French minor, Vaughn graduated cum laude in 1968 and later taught English in Columbia and Greenville for 13 years.  

In addition to the statue, the $677,000 project will encompass the front steps of the Library and the adjacent grassy area. The plaza’s construction also includes new lighting and landscaping, and will repair broken stones on the Library patio. The statue will be cast in bronze and is set to be installed on the second-annual Joseph Vaughn Day on Jan. 29, 2021.

Furman NAACP President Qwameek Bethea said, “Furman's decision to erect this statue of Joseph Vaughn honors not only his legacy, but the legacy of the African American people who continue to break boundaries at this University past and present.”  

Bethea added that Vaughn’s statue is both symbolic and indicative of a new era at Furman University. Bethea also reflected on just how much it means to Black students to see a part of themselves embodied in the physical campus. There are currently no statues representing African Americans at Furman.

The Joseph Vaughn Plaza, along with several other projects, follows recommendations from Furman’s Task Force on Slavery and Justice as part of its “Seeking Abraham” report. The Board of Trustees adopted all recommendations, which also include renaming Lakeside Housing to Clark Murphy Housing Complex and removing the “James C.” from Furman Hall.

During the plaza’s construction, tables and chairs will be placed under a tent near the front of the library so students can continue to work outside.  

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