Harvard’s Legacy of Slavery: New Report Documents How It Profited, Then Tried to Erase Ties

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Harvard University released a 134-page report this week that detailed the school’s extensive ties to slavery and pledged $100 million for a fund for scholars to continue to research the topic. The report documents dozens of prominent people associated with Harvard who enslaved people, including four Harvard presidents. Harvard commissioned the study in 2019 as part of a wave of schools reckoning with their pasts and the ongoing legacy of racial discrimination. “Harvard’s ties to slavery begin with the founding of the institution,” says MIT historian Craig Steven Wilder, author of “Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities.” Wilder says that while this history is not new, Harvard worked for decades to erase its complicity in slavery. “We’re really only beginning to reconcile and to really struggle with the deep ties that this institution has to slavery,” he says.

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