Furman University unveiled a statue of Joseph Vaughn, the first African American and student of color at the school, on Friday, April 16. The statue, the work of sculptor Steven Whyte, sits in front of Duke Library on the Joseph Vaughn Plaza.
“The statue is now, and forever will be, a beacon to everyone, but especially to people of color — people who might feel marginalized, people who, like Joe, might feel at times like a majority of one. May they see Joe Vaughn’s statue, and know that they are welcome at Furman,” university president Elizabeth Davis said at the unveiling.
Furman student Qwameek Bethea told the crowd that he is reminded of Vaughn’s courage as the university deals with current issues in the community. “We, the current students and administration, must continue Vaughn’s legacy of change. New problems demand new solutions and new leaders to find them,” Bethea said.
A representative of the Vaughn family, Marcus Tate, also provided remarks at the unveiling. He said that while visitors have been able to see the names of white alumni and individuals on the buildings and gardens on the school’s grounds, now people of color have that, too.
“There’s a statue and plaza representing Furman’s consistent move forward and emphasizing the only color that matters here on this campus is purple,” said Tate.
Vaughn was born in 1946 and attended the all-Black Sterling High School in Greenville. He served as president of the Greenville and Southeastern NAACP Youth Chapters, a role that allowed him to meet civil rights champions like Martin Luther King, Jr., according to Furman. He enrolled at Furman in 1965. During his time at the university, Vaughn organized events on social and political rights, leading peaceful civil rights demonstrations. Vaughn graduated with cum laude honors in 1968 and became a teacher in Greenville. He died in 1991 at the age of 45.