Seeking Abraham at Furman University

Reckoning with Inequity in University History

Seeking Abraham at Furman University

Greenville, South Carolina 29617, United States

Created By: Brandon Inabinet

Tour Information

User Note: In the app, you can swipe left to see more photographs for each site. Under Settings, you can toggle to turn off the audio narration.

Furman's landscape, ranked frequently in the top ten most beautiful colleges in the country, tells a fragmented story of its past. This tour will mix chronology and a reasonable walking path to narrate Furman's roots in antebellum slave culture into its modern reckoning with that history.

The tour will start at Cherrydale Alumni House, a symbol of our antebellum start. Founded in 1826, it's the oldest private university in South Carolina.

We start at Cherrydale Alumni House because of the inspiration for this history: Abraham. A former slave, Abraham worked for the university’s first president and yet all we knew about his life is a blurry photograph of him beside the house and his name typed on the back of the same photo.

The school is named for Richard Furman, a clergyman considered the most important American Baptist leader in the U.S. South.

His son, James C. Furman, whose plantation home has been converted into the alumni house, was the school's first president.

Both of these men have plenty of rhetoric for unpacking. We’ll also look at campus from the perspective of the native people who first called the campus home, the enslaved and laborers, the women who pushed against the Furmans' views, the eventual students and faculty who pushed desegregation forward, and the reckoning process that brought attention to these, especially the Seeking Abraham report released by the Task Force on Slavery and Justice report on July 28, 2018.

Funding and Background the Project

Sponsored by a grant from the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) in 2017, this digital humanities project was the first step in inventorying campus for its persuasive capacity in fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The tour has been updated as campus has changed significantly to reflect this shared history and reckoning process: renaming of buildings, a new statue and plaza centerpiece to campus, and better contextual plaques along the way.

Still, more can be done to foster awareness and create equity. Along the way, reflective questions and prompts will help set the tone for future reckoning and possible reconciliation.

A special thanks for the help of Jeffrey Makala and Julia Cowart in Furman's Special Collections & Archives.

The places you'll visit were first inventoried and described by Furman students in Communication Studies, both in an independent study and Rhetoric+Strategy.

For any questions or concerns about this tour, please contact

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

Stand on the front porch of this beautiful antebellum home. Admire the red maples lining the drive. It’s the best view on Furman’s entire campus. Straight ahead is Paris Mountain, on the left is "Blue Wall" of the Blue Ridge Mountains, ... Read more
Charles E. Daniel Chapel is quite unlike the little chapel where Richard Furman, the namesake of Furman University, started preaching, at High Hills Baptist Church. The small building, still standing in Stateburg, SC), represents the upco... Read more
You’re currently standing outside of the Admissions Office. This granite slab is taken from the Faculty Residence naer Winnsboro, Fairfield County (image attached as it looks today, with granite slabs as hitching posts for horses out fron... Read more
Warning: Some of the images attached to this location contain racist, derogatory langauge. The Furman campus moved to downtown Greenville soon after 1850, above the Falls of the Reedy River, and remained there for a century. You're standi... Read more
One member of our faculty's five-year-old daughter was taking a fun day with campus daycare, going to play around all the sculptures on campus. Although the faculty member had never talked about race with her daughter, the daughter said, "M... Read more
When Furman students documented the landscape in 2018, we found almost no representation of African-Americans in the campus landscape and very few of women.  One example sits right in front of you. Furman today is actually the result of th... Read more
This spot of iconic beauty is surrounded by antebellum legacies. The bricks below your feet in the Bell Tower circle and potentially also the Rose Garden come from the Old Campus, specifically the Bricks in the Bell Tower circle are likely ... Read more


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