Breaking: Harvard to Spend $100 Million to Study and Redress Its Ties to Slavery

Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow announced Tuesday that the university will spend $100 million to study and redress its ties to slavery.

The funds will be put toward a "Legacy of Slavery Fund" to continue researching and memorializing the history, in part by working with descendants of black and Native American people enslaved at Harvard and their broader communities. The announcement follows the release of a report from the Presidential Initiative on Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery project, which Bacow commissioned in 2019.

"Harvard benefited from and in some ways perpetuated practices that were profoundly immoral," Bacow said in an email to the university's students, faculty and staff members obtained by the New York Times. "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."

The report found that Harvard had accrued wealth thanks to patrons of the university who made their fortunes from the labor of enslaved people. Many of these patrons who owned slaves are still featured prominently on campus, with dorms and other buildings named after them, the report found. It details Harvard’s financial ties to slavery, campus abolitionists, race science, and discrimination in admissions and housing, according to the New York Times.

The Harvard Corporation has authorized the allocation of money to the newly created fund and the funds are on hand, though the university is in the process of hammering out the final details, the outlet notes.

The committee recommended several ways the money should be spent, including to fund efforts to improve educational opportunities for the descendants of black and Native American enslaved people, especially in the South and the Caribbean, where plantations traded with New England.

Other ideas include honoring enslaved people through memorials, research and curriculum and creating partnerships with historically black colleges and universities and tribal colleges. The committee also recommends the funds go toward identifying and building relationships with the direct descendants of enslaved people who worked on the Harvard campus or who were enslaved by the university’s leadership, faculty of staff.

The committee calls the new fund “a necessary predicate to and foundation for redress.” However, the committee did not go so far as to call for direct financial reparations to descendants of enslaved people.

Historian Sven Beckert, a member of the committee, said the fund marks “the most significant response that any institution of higher education anywhere in the world has formulated in response to its entanglement in slavery.”

Harvard joins several other universities that have put funds toward addressing their historic ties to slavery, including Brown, Georgetown and Princeton Theological Seminary.

Harvard’s wealth allows it to easily dedicate resources to the project; its endowment increased to $53 billion in 2021 and it had a $283 million operating surplus, according to the New York Times.

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Harvard to Spend $100 Million to Study and Redress Its Ties to Slavery

‘Harvard benefited from and in some ways perpetuated practices that were profoundly immoral,’ ... READ MORE

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