Harvard University will put $100 million from its massive endowment toward reducing racial inequality, according to a one-hundred-page report titled “Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery.” The most renowned university in the United States was implicated when it came to slavery, and Harvard aims to fix its errors going forward, according to a one-hundred-page report titled “Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery.”
The book describes how Harvard leaders enslaved at least seventy people in the 1700s and 1800s when slavery was still a legal practice in the state of Massachusetts. It was not until 1783 that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that slavery was unconstitutional and unlawful.
“Slavery and its legacy have been a part of American life for more than 400 years,” Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow wrote in a letter. “The work of further redressing its persistent effects will require our sustained and ambitious efforts for years to come.”
Harvard’s president’s letter contains the following passage: “in some ways perpetuated practices that were profoundly immoral.” When it came to free labor, Harvard was eager to have it, and enslaved individuals were used to assist with academic leadership for the university’s 143 years when slavery was legal in the state.
“The labor of enslaved people both far and near enriched numerous donors and, ultimately, the institution,” Bacow wrote in the letter.
Harvard has also acknowledged in the study that it previously excluded Black students from its rosters and had educators who endorsed racial prejudice.
Harvard, however, acknowledges that as “the nation’s oldest institution of higher education … (it) helped to perpetuate the era’s racial oppression and exploitation,” which it accomplished by helping to shape a slew of abolitionists and anti-racist leaders.
The Harvard enslaved people of today’s study claim that the school should compensate those who are descendants of slaves on its premises. The money from the fund would be used to assist these individuals “recover their histories, tell their stories, and pursue empowering knowledge.”
The fund also recommends funding the travel of students and faculty from underfunded historically Black colleges to the Cambridge campus. The document also suggested that the institution do everything possible to collaborate with Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in order to empower black people in America today.
The University’s president wrote that the university has $100 million available for anti-racist measures to help cure some of the harm done by Harvard University being a participant in America’s slavery system during the years after its foundation.
The money has yet to be dispersed, but Harvard hasn’t said when or how it will do so.
According to sociologist Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, the author of the study, “reparations is about a debt that is still owed.”
“It’s also about acknowledgment and atonement,” she stated. “And it’s also about trying to change the future.”
The $100 million, according to Higginbotham, should not be seen as “the end of their responsibility” and the university must continue to “look for ways in which it can address inequalities.”
What are your thoughts on Harvard University’s $100 million slavery reparations fund?