Prestigious University Setting Aside $100 million In Reparations After Detailing Its Ties To Slavery


Harvard University is highly respected, but it turns out that the university’s past had some skeletons in the closet. In this case, the university discovered that there are deep ties to slavery. This includes receiving money from slave owners and hiring people who owned slaves.

Back in 2019, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow decided to form a committee to research Harvard’s ties to slavery. The results were recently published in a report titled “Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery.”

Throughout their research, the committee discovered unsettling facts including the fact that the university’s staff owned 70 slaves from the time the university was founded in 1636 until the time slavery became illegal in Massachusetts in 1783.

The report recommends that Harvard take action. The report explains, “The damage caused by Harvard’s entanglements with slavery and its legacies warrant action—efforts to remedy the persistent educational and social harms that human bondage caused to descendants, to the campus community, and to surrounding cities, the Commonwealth, and the nation. Such action cannot possibly address the many complex and damaging legacies of slavery in and beyond the United States, but nonetheless, action is vital. Harvard should take responsibility for its past, and it should leverage its strengths in the pursuit of meaningful repair.”

The report also includes recommendations to the President of the university about how to try to make things right. One suggestion is to create “world-class learning opportunities…to support historically marginalized children and youth from birth through high school and college.” Another suggestion is to “create opportunities for all members of the Harvard community, especially students, to acknowledge and engage with the history of slavery and its legacies at Harvard.” In addition, the report recommends that Harvard develops “enduring partnerships with black colleges and universities” and reach out to “direct descendants of enslaved individuals who labored on Harvard’s campus.” 

Beyond the Black community, the report also asks the university to support the Native American community. The report explains, “Slavery in New England began with the enslavement of Native Americans, and Harvard leaders and staff members enslaved and sold Indigenous people as well as people of African descent.”

The report recommends that Harvard create a Legacy of Slavery Fund that would exist specifically to fund the recommendations in this report.

In summary, the report explained, “Harvard’s past entanglements with slavery and its legacies cannot be undone, but the present and future are ours—as a University community—to shape. The history revealed here and the committee’s recommendations for action can inspire renewed commitment to truth, institutional reform, and community engagement. Through these endeavors we can advance both the University’s commitment to the transformative power of education and our mission to develop ethical leaders who respect the “rights, differences, and dignity” of all people.”

Learn more about this new report about the history of slavery at Harvard and what Harvard plans to do about it in the video below.