Joseph Vaughn Plaza: a space dedicated to Joseph Allen Vaughn


Legacies Classification
Memorial Place
Memorial Type
Space on Campus
Memorial Context
Memorialized Subject
Joseph Vaughn Plaza: a space dedicated to Joseph Allen Vaughn
Background and Context
A plaza located in front of Furman University’s James B. Duke Library containing a statue of Furman’s first African American undergraduate student, Joseph Vaughn (1946-1991). Vaughn was not only a dedicated student, but an active advocate for racial equality during the Civil Rights era as seen with his attendance at protests against white supremacy. The admission of Vaughn into Furman in 1965 signified the act of desegregation within the university, ultimately representing a pivotal shift in the university’s outlook on diversity and inclusion. The creation of the plaza was strongly recommended by Furman’s Task Force on Slavery and Justice as part of their “Seeking Abraham” report, which aimed to examine Furman’s deeper connections with slavery and to honor Furman’s past social justice figures. As stated by Furman administrators, the plaza would provide “a place for reflection and celebration of those who helped to make the University a more equitable and inclusive place.”

Furman signed onto the $677,000 project, providing funding from various fundraising efforts and a previously established budget dedicated to school improvements. Donors who gave $1,000 or more towards the creation of the plaza are recognized on a plaque within the plaza.

The landscape architectural company, Mahan Rykiel, assisted a group of Furman landscape workers with choosing the best location for the plaza and designing architectural elements. The statue of Joseph Vaughn located in the plaza was created by Californian sculptor, Steven Whyte.

The plaza was installed January 29th, 2021 and unveiled to the public on April 16th, 2021 as part of a ceremony honoring Vaughn and his legacy at Furman. The university has deemed January 29th as “Joseph Vaughn Day” and has begun an annual tradition of commemorating Vaughn on that day with a ceremony. As part of the ceremony, participants do a reflective walk from the Daniel Chapel to the Joseph Vaughn Plaza and then gather around the plaza to hear speakers discuss Vaughn’s important contribution to Furman and the significance of diversity and inclusion.
Physical Description
The plaza includes the area leading to the front steps of the James B. Duke Library and the right adjacent grassy area. Also, as part of this project, old and broken stones on the library patio were replaced and lighting, landscaping, and accessibility features were improved.

The statue of Joseph Vaughn that is placed in the upper area of the plaza is a bronze sculpture made of clay based on a photo of Vaughn walking down the library steps with books underneath his arm.
Memorial Inscription
Joseph Allen Vaughn (1946 - 1991) became the first African American undergraduate student at Furman University on January 29, 1965. A graduate of Greenville’s Sterling High School, Vaughn excelled academically and became a student leader. After his 1968 graduation, he earned two master’s degrees, became a teacher, and received accolades for the talent and influence he demonstrated in his classroom. He became a state leader in education policy, particularly for students facing social and academic challenges. Vaughn remained an active alumnus until his death. This plaza honors Vaughn and those whose contributions have cultivated a campus community that strives towards greater equity and inclusion.

I was a majority of one. Make sure you are a part of Furman’s greatness.
Creator/Participating Person(s)
Mahan Rykiel Associates
Whyte, Steven
Furman University; Greenville, South Carolina
Date created, installed or dedicated
29 January 2021
16 April 2021
Location: Institution, City, State

Position: 184 (8 views)