Harvard University, a premier Ivy League school has promised to set up a $100 million fund to redress the school’s profound links to slavery. Harvard University released a 130-page report that showed at least 41 prominent people linked to the school owned enslaved African people — this includes four former presidents of Harvard. According to the issued report, “Enslaved men and women served Harvard presidents and professors and fed and cared for Harvard students. Moreover, throughout this period and well into the 19th century, the University and its donors benefited from extensive financial ties to slavery.”
“Enslaved people worked at the university for almost 150 years, until slavery became illegal in Massachusetts in 1783. The school’s report said at least 70 Black people and Native Americans were enslaved. That included people who worked on the university land and in the homes of the school’s leaders.
In addition, the university, which is the richest in the U.S., gained wealth by investing in industries, such as cotton and sugar cane, which used forced labor. Those crops were grown by enslaved people in the American South and the Caribbean Islands. Many buildings at Harvard are named for people who owned other people.
The report notes that Harvard has profited from the idea that slavery in the United States was centered in the American South. In fact, the report says, the economy in the northeastern colonies “thrived” because of their connection to slavery and businesses that used forced labor.
The report also stated that “During the first half of the 19th century, more than a third of the money donated or promised to Harvard by private individuals came from just five men who made their fortunes from slavery and slave-produced commodities”.
Researchers said there were likely more than 70 enslaved people, but they only found 70 names. They added that some of the enslaved people were Native Americans. Many of the enslaved people were known only by their first names, which included: Cesar, Dinah, Delia, Renty and Venus. “
NPR reported that the Legacy of Slavery Fund will be kept in an endowment “strategically invested to support implementation of these recommendations,” the report said.
The Ivy League school also plans to further partner with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) through initiatives, such as appointing visiting HBCU professors to Harvard for one year and subsidizing summer, semester or yearlong studies at Harvard for HBCU students.
The school said it is working to identify Black and Indigenous students who are direct descendants of people enslaved in the U.S.
Harvard University said, “We further recommend that, in recognition of this lineage, the university engages with these descendants through dialogue, programming, information sharing, relationship building, and educational support”.
It must be highlighted that Harvard University is not only the academic or financial institution that was connected to slavery in North America. But Harvard has shown that it is a good housekeeping act to delve into its shameful history and make up for their past mistakes, thereby clearing the coast for better relationship with effected Black community. The monetary commitment is equally significant but the goodwill act is the perquisite for a healthy relationship needed for the healing to commence.
credits: npr, democracy now, voa