Harvard, the oldest college in America, has made another effort to redress its ugly past. The ivy league institution has set up a multimillion-dollar fund to finance a study of the school’s lengthy connection to slavery.
The new endowment called the “Legacy of Slavery Fund” was created to give scholars and students access to Harvard’s historical records, in an effort to fully unpack the university’s connection to the institution of slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
The fund will be financed by the president and the university’s governing corporation, which has already pledged $100 million, a commitment that mirrors a donation of the same amount by the leaders of the Jesuit Conference of priests in May 2021 to Georgetown University for racial reconciliation and to benefit descendants of enslaved Africans.
The act was initiated after the school released the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery report, a study that detailed the intertwining of slavery with the school’s inception, starting in the Colonial era.
It also revealed how 70 people of African descent were enslaved by Harvard presidents and other leaders, faculty, and staff. At least five Harvard presidents owned slaves. Those that are known, according to the report are as follows: Benjamin Wadsworth, Nathaniel Eaton, Increase Mather, Joseph Willard, and Edward Holyoke.
“Over nearly 150 years, from the University’s founding in 1636 until the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found slavery unlawful, Harvard presidents and other leaders, as well as its faculty and staff, enslaved more than 70 individuals, some of whom labored on campus,” the report states.
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