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Founding Funders: A map project

Surveying Original Investors to the University of the South

“Founding Funders” are individuals who promised to provide financial assistance to support the founding of the University of the South on the eve of the American Civil War. These “Founding Funders” are named in a master list compiled in the 1870s by George Fairbanks to discover who, if any, of them had fulfilled their pre-war promises to provide funds. The digital map and survey enable us to “follow the money” — to see who these original investors were, to understand where their wealth was concentrated, and to reveal the importance of how enslaved labor and investments in enslaved property contributed to their financial, social, and cultural power in 1860.

See the Numbers in Perspective: Explore the Map

Key Findings

1. The first wave of supporters of the southern university was concentrated in the lower Mississippi Valley.

2. Wealth from investments in enslaved human property was the bedrock of the $1.2 million pledged.

3. A disproportionate number of the university’s first benefactors were among the region’s largest enslavers.

4. The Episcopal Church in the South was the common denominator linking wealth from enslaved labor and wealth invested in the new University of the South.