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Our Process

The average proportion of founders who enslaved people to those they enslaved is 1 : 150.

While researching the founding of the University of the South, a list was found in the University Archives. This list was compiled in the 1870s by George Rainsford Fairbanks. Fairbanks, himself, a donor and founder of the University of the South, created the list to assist in the university’s fundraising efforts. Building upon the myth that all of the institution’s funds were lost during the American Civil War, Fairbanks reached out to previous subscribers to aid in the continuation of the University. While the fundraising success in the 1870s was limited, this list has become a pivotal document in understanding the original fundraising efforts of the University of the South.

As seen in the document above, most of these “founding funders” are listed by surname and donation amount. However, at times, a few notations help identify an individual “funder”: first name, an initial, a title, or a place of residence. As a result of these limited hints, the efforts to identify these “funders” has taken a significant amount of time. Our researchers have used various primary and secondary sources to identify these “founding funders.”

The sources that support our findings include Diocesan Journals of the Episcopal Church from Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Archives of the Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas, and various diocesan archives in North Carolina, Maryland, and Louisana. In addition, many archival sources have been consulted, including the University of North Carolina, University of Texas Austin, Tulane University, Louisiana State University, and the University of Alabama.  Digital resources have been essential on this research journey, including HathiTrust, Archives.org, google books, findagrave.com, newspapers.com, and most importantly, ancestry.com.