Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow announced that he has accepted the recommendations of a committee studying universities’ ties to slavery and has set aside $100 million to continue studying and documenting that issue.
“As the committee’s report powerfully documents, Harvard’s history includes extensive entanglements with slavery. The report makes plain that slavery in America was by no means confined to the South. It was embedded in the fabric and the institutions of the North, and it remained legal in Massachusetts until the Supreme Judicial Court ruled it unconstitutional in 1783,” Bacow said in a press release on Tuesday.
The Harvard president said slavery played a significant part in the universities’ institutional history.
“Enslaved people worked on our campus supporting our students, faculty, and staff, including several Harvard presidents. The labor of enslaved people both far and near enriched numerous donors and, ultimately, the institution,” he said.
Bacow noted that some faculty supported and disseminated bogus positions that gave a scholarly imprimatur to racial superiority and racism. Even after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, Harvard continued a slate of discriminatory practices that severely constrained the number and presence of African Americans on campus.
“Consequently, I believe we bear a moral responsibility to do what we can to address the persistent corrosive effects of those historical practices on individuals, on Harvard, and on our society,” he said.
Bacow explained that the $100 million will create an endowed “Legacy of Slavery Fund” that will continue researching and memorializing that history, working with descendants of Black and Native American people enslaved at Harvard, as well as their broader community.
In addition to Harvard, a number of other educational institutions in the United States, including Georgetown, Brown, Columbia, University of Virginia and the Princeton Theological Seminary, have set aside financial resources to make amends for participation in the system based on slavery.