Harvard pledges $100M to research, atone for role in slavery

Apr 25, 2022, 9:52 PM | Updated: Apr 26, 2022, 3:31 pm
FILE - A tour group walks through the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Aug. 30, 20...

FILE - A tour group walks through the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Aug. 30, 2012. Harvard University is vowing to spend $100 million dollars to research and atone for its extensive ties with slavery, the school's president announced Tuesday, April 26, 2022, with plans to identify and support direct descendants of dozens of enslaved people who labored at the Ivy League campus. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

BOSTON (AP) — Harvard University is vowing to spend $100 million to study and atone for its extensive ties with slavery, the school’s president announced Tuesday, with plans to identify and support the descendants of enslaved people who labored at the Ivy League campus.

President Lawrence Bacow announced the funding as Harvard released a new report detailing the many ways the college benefited from slavery and perpetuated racial inequality. But the report stops short of recommending direct financial reparations, and officials have no immediate plans for that kind of support.

Harvard, the nation’s oldest and wealthiest college, is the latest among a growing number of U.S. schools attempting to confront their involvement with slavery and also make amends for it.

The report, commissioned by Bacow, found that Harvard’s faculty, staff and leaders enslaved more than 70 Black and Native American people from the school’s founding in 1636 to 1783. It cautions that the figure is “almost certainly an undercount.” Using historical records, researchers were able to identify dozens of enslaved people by name, along with their connection to the university.

Most were identified only by a single name, such as Cesar, Dinah and Venus.

“Enslaved men and women served Harvard presidents and professors and fed and cared for Harvard students,” researchers found. “Moreover, throughout this period and well into the 19th century, the University and its donors benefited from extensive financial ties to slavery.”

The report says the university “should make a significant monetary commitment, and it should invest in remedies of equal or greater breadth than other universities.” Bacow said Harvard will attempt to redress its wrongs through “teaching, research and service.” He is creating a committee to implement the report’s suggestions.

Building on earlier research at Harvard, the report details how the university depended on the slave trade in its early years and profited from it for decades.

Harvard invested directly in the sugar and rum trades in the Caribbean, along with the U.S. cotton and railroad industries. The college’s early growth is credited to support from wealthy donors who accumulated their fortunes through the slave trade and industries that relied on it.

Along with the 70 people who were enslaved, the report also lists their enslavers — including several Harvard presidents and high-ranking officials — and the campus buildings, rooms and professorships that are still named after them.

Even after slavery was abolished, the report says, prominent scholars continued to promote concepts that fueled racist ideas.

It cites work by 19th century professor Louis Agassiz, who pushed discredited theories on “race science” and eugenics. Another scholar led a “physical education” program that collected students’ physical measurements to support research advancing eugenic theories.

In his message, Bacow called the findings “disturbing and shocking,” and he acknowledged that the school “perpetuated practices that were profoundly immoral.”

“Consequently, I believe we bear a moral responsibility to do what we can to address the persistent corrosive effects of those historical practices on individuals, on Harvard, and on our society,” he wrote.

The 130-page report included a series of recommendations that Bacow endorsed. The $100 million will be used to carry out the work, with some funding to be made available now and more to be held in an endowment. The university itself has an endowment of more than $50 billion, the largest in the nation.

The report says Harvard should identify the descendants of enslaved people and engage with them “through dialogue, programming, information sharing, relationship building and educational support.”

“Through such efforts, these descendants can recover their histories, tell their stories and pursue empowering knowledge,” the report said.

More broadly, it urges Harvard to fight racial inequality by expanding education options for descendants of enslaved people, especially in the South and the Caribbean. It calls on the university to work closely with historically Black colleges across the country, with new funding to bring students and scholars to Harvard for up to a year at a time.

And acknowledging the enslavement of Native Americans, it calls on Harvard to build closer ties with New England tribes. Harvard should recruit more students from tribal communities, the report says, and organize a national conference promoting research on the enslavement of Indigenous people.

In accepting the recommendations, Harvard joins an increasing number of colleges attempting to move from research to action as they reconcile with their histories.

Georgetown University in 2019 promised to raise $400,000 a year for the descendants of enslaved people sold by the school. The Princeton Theological Seminary created a $27.6 million reparative endowment. The University of Virginia established scholarships for the descendants of enslaved people.

Harvard formally began exploring its ties to slavery in 2016, when former President Drew Gilpin Faust acknowledged that the school was “directly complicit in America’s system of racial bondage.” Faust organized a committee to study the topic and had a plaque installed on campus honoring enslaved people who labored there.

Student activists had been shining a light on Harvard’s darker histories for years. In 2015, students demanded that Harvard Law School abandon its official crest, which was tied to an 18th century donor whose family enslaved dozens of people. Months later, the school retired the symbol.

Soon after becoming president, Bacow established a new Presidential Initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery to dig deeper into the university’s role. That effort led to the new report.

“The Harvard that I have known, while far from perfect, has always tried to be better — to bring our lived experience ever closer to our high ideals,” Bacow wrote. “In releasing this report and committing ourselves to following through on its recommendations, we continue a long tradition of embracing the challenges before us.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)...
Associated Press

Fish and Wildlife shoots wrong wolf, more attacks confirmed

Wolves from two packs in northeast Washington state have attacked more cattle
8 hours ago
Low yielding cotton plants grow at sunset, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, near Cotton Center, Texas. Drough...
Associated Press

Drought takes toll on country’s largest cotton producer

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — The cotton harvest is about to get underway in the Texas High Plains, the windswept region that grows most of the crop in the nation’s top cotton-producing state. But Barry Evans, like many others, has already walked away from more than 2,000 acres (809 hectares) of his bone-dry fields. “It just […]
1 day ago
From left, Minister of State for Northern Ireland Steve Baker, the Secretary of State for Northern ...
Associated Press

UK, Ireland signal new hope of deal to end Brexit trade feud

LONDON (AP) — Britain and Ireland hailed a new spirit of compromise on Friday in a grinding feud over post-Brexit trade rules, expressing hope of making enough progress in the next three weeks to avoid a destabilizing new election in Northern Ireland. It comes as new British Prime Minister Liz Truss seeks to improve relations […]
1 day ago
Branislav Borenovic, leader of Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), addresses the media after submit...
Associated Press

Bosnia election officials investigate possible vote-rigging

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Bosnia’s election authorities expressed concerns Friday over widespread problems at polling stations and reports of irregularities and vote-rigging in the general election last weekend. They ordered ballot checks at over 1,000 polling stations and promised to investigate all potential failings before certifying the results of the vote. Members of the country’s […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Malaysian wildlife traffickers hit with US sanctions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. on Friday targeted a Malaysian wildlife trafficker and his transnational criminal organization for financial sanctions related to the illegal shipment of rhino horn, ivory and other specimens. The Treasury Department said Malaysian national Teo Boon Ching, his trafficking organization and the Malaysian firm Sunrise Greenland Sdn. Bhd. engage in the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Pink diamond breaks auction record in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (AP) — A pink diamond was sold for $49.9 million in Hong Kong on Friday, setting a world record for the highest price per carat for a diamond sold at auction. The 11.15-carat Williamson Pink Star diamond, auctioned by Sotheby’s Hong Kong, sold for $392 million Hong Kong dollars ($49.9 million). It was […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Harvard pledges $100M to research, atone for role in slavery