By Catherine MacLennan
This research concludes that George Washington Doane, the first Professor of Belles- Lettres at Trinity and the first Bursar of the College, lived in and supported a society with enslaved people and expressed pro-slavery ideals through his religious beliefs. As an Episcopalian Priest, Rector, and Bishop, his religion was laid the ground work of his moral values. The Episcopal Church in the 19th century used scripture that supported slavery, and Doane preached those values in his sermons. He worked closely with Bishop Brownell and the first students of Trinity, and these white supremacist values were surely expressed during the establishment of Trinity College. Therefore, as a white, Christian man living the 19th century, George Washington Doane prospered in a white supremacist society which most likely influenced the beliefs he shared during the establishment of Trinity College.
A portrait of George Washington Doane hangs in the Smith House English Room. While his presence on campus is small, his portrait in the Smith House should be replaced with an activist or influencer from the Trinity community, or someone that better represents the diversity of our campus and the more recent values of Trinity College. A perfect example of a portrait that could replace Doane’s is one of Ann Plato, an African American woman activist and author who resided in Hartford and now has a postdoctoral faculty fellowship named after her at Trinity College to celebrate and promote diversity. The replacement of the portrait is not to erase our history or the role of Doane at Trinity, but rather to grapple with the honest, difficult history at Trinity, while working to represent our diverse community on campus.
For the full research findings, click here: