Inclusive History Project

The Inclusive History Project is designed to study, document, and engage the U-M community in understanding the university’s history with respect to diversity, equity and inclusion, with an initial focus on the history of race and racism.

In embarking on this journey of institutional self-discovery, U-M commits to changing our conception of the past and to taking action that enables us to build a truly inclusive present and future.

The Inclusive History Project is, in part, an outgrowth of the university’s 2017 bicentennial commemoration and other efforts that have previously explored elements of the university’s past including: the Stumbling Blocks exhibit as part of the Presidential Bicentennial Colloquia Series; the Bentley Historical Library’s recent project to create a complete census of all African American students to 1970; and the more recent process that was put in place for reviewing historical names on buildings in response to community requests.

It will build upon other U-M efforts, including our first five-year DEI strategic plan and transition to DEI 2.0, current anti-racism initiatives, and the culture journey to establish shared values.

This comprehensive project will require several phases of work lasting several years.

Leading the initial phase will be two leading scholars:

Elizabeth R. ColeElizabeth R. Cole
Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, Psychology, and Afroamerican and African Studies
University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor
Director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity


Earl LewisEarl Lewis
Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of History, Afroamerican and African Studies and Public Policy
Director and founder, Center for Social Solutions


Professors Cole and Lewis will co-chair a Framing and Design Committee comprised of current and former Michigan faculty and other experts who are deeply engaged in studying and questioning the past and our present narratives.

This committee will be responsible for determining the necessary historical and benchmarking analyses – in close partnership with the Bentley Historical Library – to map the scope and next steps of the project. That will include creating a process for robust and broad community outreach and engagement.

U-M’s approach to reviewing historical names has highlighted the challenges of reckoning with the past through a focus on individual names on buildings, discrete periods of time and events, and without the benefit of a comprehensive approach and community engagement across diverse groups of stakeholders.  Such an effort can be particularly difficult and only partially effective without a larger historical context.

Framing and Design Committee members will be announced soon.

The committee’s work will be intentionally independent of the university administration to mitigate any real or perceived notions that the scope and analyses were constrained by campus leaders.

The overall goal is to lead our community to a shared understanding of our past, how it has led to the challenges of today, and a defined trajectory for a more inclusive and equitable future.

We envision a range of possible outcomes from this project including:

  • The development of new scholarship, research and courses.
  • New expressions of a more inclusive and accurate institutional narrative such as exhibits, campus tours, websites, updated ceremonies and other forms of institutional storytelling.
  • New and revitalized community relationships and partnerships.
  • Changes in our institutional landscape and physical environment such as new kinds of monuments and public art.
  • New and revised building and space names.
  • New institutional programs and policies that address the contemporary effects of historical and systemic racism and other forms of discrimination and exclusion on our community, including but not limited to actions as permitted by law in areas such as admissions, financial aid, and faculty and staff hiring, promotion and compensation.
  • Many other tangible ideas that will emerge from a thoughtful and engaged process.