Frequently Asked Questions About Diversity At Sweet Briar

Are there classes at Sweet Briar that address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion and the impact of minority groups on culture?

Yes. The classes offered in any given year may change based on the expertise of the faculty members, but the following relevant classes have been taught at the College in the last two years:

  • Art History 248 Art of Africa (includes African-American art which is also discussed in Twentieth-Century Art & Contemporary Art)
  • History 219: Before the Triangle Trade: Pre-Modern Slavery
  • History 225: The US South
  • History 237: The 20th-Century Black Freedom Struggle
  • History 312: Virginia History and Memory
  • History 346: Telling the Told: Oral History
  • Dance 109: Jazz Dance Technique (incorporates syncopated polyrhythms from Africa) 
  • Music 255: Advanced Skiffle USA (includes the role of steel pan in the cultural life of Trinidad and Tobago)
  • Philosophy 241: Philosophy of the Environment
  • Philosophy 345: Philosophy of Race
  • Philosophy 368: 19th/20th Century Philosophy (includes critical race theory)
  • Political Science 316: U.S. Civil Rights and Liberties

Several of the leadership core classes also address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in direct ways including CORE 130: Women and Gender in the World and CORE 210: Contemporary Ethical Questions. Faculty members also frequently incorporate diverse perspectives in other classes as well. For example, Professor Penfield’s Philosophy of the Environment course investigates political ecology and explores how the logic of domination underlies various forms of social hierarchy, like structural violence and oppression along lines of gender, race, and class. In Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, students discussed how food systems are influenced and affected by equity issues, particularly given the history of slavery and indigenous people in this part of the world. For more information, visit the College Catalog or contact the Office of the Dean


Can I make a donation to the College that is restricted to support Sweet Briar’s efforts to enhance diversity and inclusion on campus?

Yes. The College welcomes gifts that help us address these issues. To make a restricted gift, contact the Office of Alumnae Relations and Development at 800-381-6131.


How does Sweet Briar celebrate Black History Month?

Sweet Briar celebrates Black History Month every February. The events each year vary, but usually include Gospel Fest—which has been hosted by the College for more than 30 years—movies, articles and more.


What has the College done to publicly honor the College’s invisible founders?

  • In 2015, the College helped host a family reunion for the descendants of James and Lavinia Fletcher, who were once enslaved at Sweetbrier Plantation. 
  • In 2017, Lynn Rainville, then director of the Tusculum Institute and research professor at Sweet Briar, spoke at Founders’ Day Convocation about the impact of the College’s invisible founders. She has since written a book about her research, “Invisible Founders: How Two Centuries of African American Families Transformed a Plantation into a College.” 
  • In the spring of 2018, the College’s Black Student Alliance initiated a sunrise walk to the Sweet Briar Plantation Burial Grounds to honor the enslaved people buried there.
  • That sunrise walk was added to Founders’ Day in the fall of 2018 and continued to be part of our Founders’ Day events in 2019. It will continue to be included as part of Founders’ Day going forward.