Harvard publicly acknowledges historical ties to slavery
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard University publicly acknowledged its deep ties to colonial-era slavery on Friday, casting a light on parts of its history that long remained in the shadows.
At a conference that Harvard organized to explore the relationship between colleges and slavery, university President Drew Faust said the school must confront the grimmer parts of its past before it can move forward.
“Harvard was directly complicit in slavery from the college’s earliest days in the 17th century until the system of bondage ended in Massachusetts in 1783,” Faust, a historian, said in her opening speech. “We look at both past and present today in the firm belief that only by coming to terms with history can we free ourselves to create a more just world.”
Scholars from several universities gathered at the Cambridge campus to present research detailing how Harvard and other early American schools benefited from slavery.
At least two of Harvard’s early presidents brought slaves to live and work on campus, historians said. Some of the school’s major donors made their fortunes through slave labor or the slave trade. The university invested in merchant voyages trading crops produced by slaves. The 19th century Harvard scientist Louis Agassiz promoted theories about race that were used to justify slavery.
“Some of our most esteemed educational institutions are also the product of some of the most horrific violence that has ever descended on any group of people,” said Sven Beckert, a Harvard history professor who has studied the school’s slavery ties.
Other colleges, including the University of Virginia, used slaves to build and operate their campuses, and some were founded by wealthy merchants involved in the slave trade.
Harvard is the latest in a string of universities that have sought to confront their connections to slavery recently, often only after students demanded it. Read more
Source: Boston Herald