Harvard University announced its commitment of $100 million to study its historical ties to slavery in April 2020. A report by the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery noted that between 1636 and 1783 — when slavery became illegal in Massachusettes — Harvard faculty members enslaved over 70 Black or Indigenous people. Many of these people lived on campus and provided care for the university’s professors and students. Around the same time, Harvard professors promoted the study of eugenics and engaged in racist and abusive practices such as intrusive physical examinations. Additionally, the committee discovered that donors to the university benefitted directly from slavery between the 17th and 19th centuries.
The fund and the international committee were founded after a wave of similar commitments employed by other prominent academic institutions to amend their past connections to slavery. In the past few years, schools such as Georgetown University and Brown University have formally acknowledged and apologized for their past engagement with the slave trade.
Along with the $100 million fund, Harvard plans to administer reparations for its past through an improvement in education. Lawrence Bacow, president of Harvard, noted that the university’s staff “will redress — through teaching, research and service — our legacy with slavery, and we will work, across the university and in partnership with other institutions, to fulfill our moral obligations.”
By Arielsie Li