“Creating & Leading an Anti-Slavery Student Group: Notes from Texans For Freedom President Sarah Brown”
By Sarah Brown, Tarleton State University
In the fall of 2014, Dr. Michael Landis, Assistant Professor of History at Tarleton State University, taught a course titled “Slavery and the American South.” A side assignment for students was to establish a student organization with a mission to promote awareness of modern slavery to the Tarleton State campus with the support of the FREE Project. Three other students and I began the process to develop a new student-led organization at Tarleton.
Our first requirement from the school in order to establish our group was to compose our own constitution. The school’s office of student engagement provided a template for us to use in order to construct a correct constitution, but all the details were up to us. We crafted a full three page constitution in one sitting, but it took most of the day! For close to four and a half hours, three of us discussed and worked out the rules, officer requirements, member requirements, and group goals and objectives. Dr. Landis, who is the group advisor, approved it, and I turned the constitution in to the office of student engagement to be signed by Darrell Brown, the executive director of student engagement. The three of us who gathered to write the constitution also had to submit a list of the group’s officers to the office of student engagement. This list was not very difficult to make since there were only five members in the group at that time, and therefore everyone was an officer. With a stamp of approval from the school, Texans Against Slavery (later changed to Texans For Freedom) was a confirmed organization on the Tarleton State University campus.
The following spring (after Dr. Landis’s slavery course had ended) mostly consisted of maintaining the group as an active entity. Our group applied for and received a grant from The Free Project to bring Dr. Stacey Robertson, co-director of Historians Against Slavery, to speak on campus. The event had a great student turn out and gave us a glimpse of the possible impact our group may have on campus. In the fall of 2015, members voted to change the name to “Texans for Freedom: Giving a Voice to the Modern Slave.” We hosted a movie event in which we showed Taken, a Hollywood blockbuster providing modern human trafficking awareness on a less intimidating level. The event was a moderate success and showed that there are people interested on campus. In October, I represented TFF at an A21 Campaign Walk for Freedom in Stephenville, Texas, where Tarleton is located. The event was hosted by a newly formed anti-human trafficking group in the community. I was able to speak to the woman leading the group, and we will begin working together in the future to forge connections between Tarleton and the greater Stephenville community. At the end of the 2015 fall semester, I also spoke at the JTAC News Free Speech Week. JTAC, the campus newspaper, provided TFF a slot to speak on modern slavery and human trafficking. I gave a presentation on TFF’s mission and the fundamentals of slavery in the world today. The majority of the attendees were current journalists from the campus newsroom who informed me of ways our group could utilize the campus newspaper and new magazine as an outlet to advertise our mission.
Texans for Freedom plans to be very involved in the coming 2016 spring semester. January is “Human Trafficking Awareness Month,” and TFF will partner with the American Association of University Women and the Tarleton Department of Social Sciences to host the another movie event: Nefarious: Merchant of Souls. In addition, TFF will work through advertisements, fliers, and eye-catching displays to promote awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery. Either myself or one of our members will submit an opinion article to the JTAC newsroom to be published in either the campus newspaper or magazine. Spring is the season of revival and new growth, and I hope to see Texans for Freedom grow on the Tarleton State campus.
Sarah Brown is an undergraduate student at Tarleton State University. She is interested in social activism and environmental history. She recently attended the annual meeting of the Southern Historical Association (2015, Little Rock).