Harvard profited from slavery. Now it seeks to atone.
27 April, 2022
Welcome to Wednesday, April 27. Today, Harvard releases a report on how it profited from slavery and how it will try to atone. The U.S. Education Department says 73 more institutions are eligible to participate in Second Chance Pell, which awards Pell Grants to incarcerated students in participating college programs. And education professors feel the impact of state laws that seek to limit what teachers can say in the classroom.
Today’s Briefing was written by Kate Hidalgo Bellows with contributions from Heidi Landecker and Julia Piper.
In a message accompanying a 134-page report, President Lawrence S. Bacow offered painstaking details about Harvard’s direct, financial, and intellectual ties to slavery. Harvard is the latest higher-education institution to commit substantial resources to delving into, and helping make amends for, its institutional ties to slavery.
“Enslaved people worked on our campus, supporting our students, faculty, and staff, including several Harvard presidents,” Bacow wrote. “The labor of enslaved people both far and near enriched numerous donors and, ultimately, the institution. Some members of our faculty promoted ideas that gave scholarly legitimacy to concepts of racial superiority. And long after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, in 1865, Harvard continued discriminatory practices.” (A plaque, pictured above, honors people enslaved by Harvard’s past presidents.)
The $100-million commitment, while a staggering amount for most universities, comes just a few months after Harvard’s endowment was valued at $53.2 billion.
Over the years, Harvard has become a better, much more diverse institution, but that doesn’t absolve it of its responsibility to make up for past wrongs, Bacow wrote. “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.”