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Harvard Commits $100 Million To Study Own Ties To Slavery

Published 2 months ago
By Chanel Retief

TOPLINE

Harvard University on Tuesday announced it would spend $100 million to study the university’s historic ties to slavery and work on the “process of reckoning and repair,” becoming the latest prestigious university launching a fund to study its own past.

KEY FACTS

The university released a report on its ties to slavery along with a list of recommendations moving forward, including the creation of an “Endowed Legacy of Slavery Fund” to fund new programs and serve as a “foundation for redress.”

The report calls on the university to “identify, engage, and support” direct descendants of enslaved workers early in the university’s history, which included Black and Native American slaves.

The primary recommendation was to offer increased access to educational opportunities, while also attempting to reach broader groups that have largely been excluded from attending Harvard.

The report recommends a closer partnership between Harvard and historically Black colleges and universities, in part through the creation of a new “Du Bois Scholars Program,” to subsidize semester, summer or yearlong visits from HBCU students to Harvard.

BIG NUMBER

More than 70. That’s how many enslaved people are documented as being owned by Harvard staff or donors in an appendix to the report, almost all either unnamed or known only by their first name.

CRUCIAL QUOTE

“Harvard benefited from and in some ways perpetuated practices that were profoundly immoral,” Harvard president Lawrence S. Bacow said in an email to the university community, obtained by the New York Times.

KEY BACKGROUND

A wave of prominent institutions have announced similar financial commitments over the past few years, such as the Princeton Theological Seminary, Brown University and the Jesuit Catholic order, which sold slaves to pay off debts for building Georgetown University. Harvard’s report details a history of university presidents, faculty members and major donors during the century-and-a-half after its 1636 founding that owned slaves. Many of those figures still have their names memorialized on plaques, buildings and other places of significance on Harvard’s campus, according to the report. The report recommends the creation of “a permanent and imposing physical memorial, convening space, or both” on campus to recognize the work of slaves there.

FURTHER READING

Harvard Creates Fund to Redress Its Ties to Slavery (New York Times)

By Nicholas Reimann, Forbes Staff

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