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Harvard Redresses Its Historic Ties to Slavery

April 27, 2022

Harvard University has pledged $100 million to make amends for its historical ties to slavery, the university announced Tuesday.

The money will establish an endowed Legacy of Slavery Fund to research and redress Harvard’s “extensive entanglements with slavery,” President Lawrence Bacow wrote in a message to the community.

The announcement came with the release of a 100-page report, more than two years in the making, by a committee of Harvard professors appointed by Bacow to expose Harvard’s links to slavery.

“The truth is that slavery played a significant part in our institutional history,” Bacow wrote. “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.”

Harvard is the latest U.S. university to publicly acknowledge and move to rectify its involvement with slavery, joining such institutions as Brown and Georgetown Universities and the Princeton Theological Seminary, The New York Times reported.

The report released Tuesday makes a number of recommendations, in addition to establishing the Legacy of Slavery Fund. They are:

  • Engage with and support descendant communities by leveraging Harvard’s excellence in education
  • Honor enslaved people through memorialization, research, curricula and knowledge dissemination
  • Develop enduring partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities
  • Identify, engage with and support direct descendants of enslaved people
  • Honor, engage with and support Native communities
  • Ensure institutional accountability

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Susan H. Greenberg

Susan H. Greenberg is a senior editor at Inside Higher Ed. A career journalist and educator, she joined the publication in August 2021 after eight years in Vermont, where she freelanced and taught writing at Middlebury College and Champlain College. Prior to that, she spent 22 years writing and editing for Newsweek magazine, where she covered everything from international affairs to arts and culture. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and River Teeth, among others. She has taught English and journalism at Phillips Academy, where she served as an advisor to the student newspaper. She holds a B.A. in English from Brown University and an M.S. in journalism from Columbia. The mother of three nearly adult children, she is very much enjoying her newly empty nest.

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