Apr. 16, 2021, signified a major step towards Furman University growing into the institution we all know it is capable of becoming. On this beautiful Spring afternoon, the statue of Joseph A. Vaughn was revealed, and with it, a desperately-needed light was cast upon Furman. Erecting a statue of Furman’s first-ever undergraduate Black student right outside the library is a testament to our progress as a university. Before the unveiling, most individuals were familiar with the cloud of injustice and unacceptance that dominated Furman’s past, as well as the lingering pain of slavery and segregation that has carried over into the present day. Despite that history, the Furman community has pushed to get past these notions to work to create a new environment that is fueled by the power of inclusivity.
As an African American male on this campus, the Joseph A. Vaughn statue is more than just a statue - it is a symbol. The Joseph A. Vaughn statue is a reminder that I have the power to reach heights that others may deem impossible to reach. This symbol reminds me that I have the power to do things in an unconventional way and still find my way to success. The placement of this statue in front of the library, such a prominent area on campus, will provide me with a daily reminder of what it means to defy the odds and continue forward.
This significance of the Joseph Vaughn Plaza has enhanced the voices of the students of color on Furman’s campus. This plaza is recognition that Vaughn was an essential part of Furman’s history. For me, the unveiling of the Joseph Vaughn Plaza serves as another reminder that I am more than capable of succeeding in an environment in which I am different, just as Vaughn did.
Joseph Vaughn’s legacy has graced Furman with a new light, one that brings out the beauty of being different. This light is eternal and will withstand the test of time throughout the rest of Furman’s history. Apr. 16, 2021 is a date that will forever live in glory for all of Furman, as the journey to where we need to be as a university in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion has only begun. There will be many hardships along the way, but I see the beauty within the struggle. Nothing worth having ever comes easy and the Joseph Vaughn Plaza provides us with a daily reminder of that. The mark Vaughn left on this campus should be appreciated by each and every student because his efforts have allowed us to enjoy the Furman that we know today. Now, it is up to us to continue these efforts so that one day Furman can truly become a community full of love and acceptance.