Another Ivy League school has pledged millions in funding to redress its ties to slavery. Harvard University announced it was setting aside $100 million in funding in conjunction with the release of a 134-page report on the legacy of slavery at the institution.
“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,” Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow wrote in a letter he penned to the Harvard community on Tuesday, April 26.
“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’s letter continued. “By that time, Harvard was nearly 150 years old. And the truth is that slavery played a significant part in our institutional history.”
As a result of the report’s findings, various recommendations include having Harvard “support descendants and Native communities; establish an endowed Legacy of Slavery Fund; collaborate with Black colleges and universities; and memorialize the enslaved people by advancing research and curricula,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Bacow acknowledged that funding and implementation of the recommendations by a committee were not adequate to recompense for the longterm harm imposed on Black Americans who were enslaved. He noted it was a starting point.
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“Slavery and its legacy have been a part of American life for more than 400 years,” Bacow said. “The work of further redressing its persistent effects will require our sustained and ambitious efforts for years to come.”
Harvard joined fellow Ivy League Columbia University as a school that is actively working to address its role in slavery. The latter erected markers across campus to acknowledge some of its racist history.
Harvard is also a member of a 50-school consortium that has committed to confronting the role of slave ownership in their institutions. The consortium includes Brown and Georgetown universities and the University of Virginia.
Not everyone sees Harvard’s fund as a victory, however. Renowned reparations scholar William “Sandy” Darity said the prominent university could allocate more funding and also be an advocate for a federal reparations plan.
“Harvard, an institution with a $53 billion endowment, sets aside a petty $100 million as its act of ‘reparations.’ Far better to use its clout and influence to form a coalition to lobby and petition Congress for a comprehensive national plan for #purereparations” Darity tweeted.
In the same Twitter thread, Darity said programs like Harvard could ultimately do more harm than good to the cause of obtaining reparations that will close the racial wealth gap.
“Piecemeal ‘reparations’ at state, local, private institutional, or individual levels will undercut movement for a comprehensive national plan that entirely eliminates the racial wealth gap,” Darity tweeted. “They are a dangerous diversion from the path to justice.”
PHOTO: Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Nov. 13, 2008.f Harvard is taking new steps to confront its past ties to slavery. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole, File)