Harvard University is earning its reputation as being “woke” as it has decided to create a $100 million reparations fund because of its history with slavery.
Harvard President Lawrence Bacow created a committee in 2019 to study what role slavery played in the history of the university and on Tuesday it published its report.
The report said that “slavery of Indigenous and of African people—was an integral part of life in Massachusetts and at Harvard during the colonial era” and that “between the University’s founding in 1636 and the end of slavery in the Commonwealth in 1783, Harvard faculty, staff, and leaders enslaved more than 70 individuals.”
The report said that “some of the enslaved worked and lived on campus, where they cared for Harvard presidents and professors and fed generations of Harvard students” and lamented that “the University today memorializes benefactors with ties to slavery across campus through statues, buildings, professorships, student houses, and the like.”
It went on to say that the legacies of slavery “including racial segregation, exclusion, and discrimination, were a part of campus life well into the 20th century.”
“While Harvard does not bear exclusive responsibility for these injustices, and while many members of our community have worked hard to counteract them, Harvard benefited from and in some ways perpetuated practices that were profoundly immoral,” the university president said in a letter. “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.”
“In addition to shedding fresh and important light on Harvard’s entanglements with slavery and its aftermath, the report lays out a number of recommendations for how we as a community can redress—through teaching, research, and service—our legacies with slavery. Together they represent a helpful set of guideposts as we consider how best to approach the future in ways that properly reckon with our past. Each of these recommendations will require both careful thought as well as substantial resources to implement successfully,” the school’s president said.
“To begin the process of moving from recommendations to action, I am appointing an implementation committee to be chaired by Martha Minow, the 300th Anniversary University Professor, former dean of Harvard Law School, and a member of the Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery. To provide the resources, the Corporation has authorized a commitment of $100 million for implementation. Some of these funds will be available for current use, while the balance will be held in an endowment to support this work over time,” he said.
“I recognize that this is a significant commitment, and for good reason. Slavery and its legacy have been a part of American life for more than 400 years,” he said. “The work of further redressing its persistent effects will require our sustained and ambitious efforts for years to come.”
The letter stopped short of giving an apology for the school’s legacy of slavery.