Harvard University announced Tuesday a pledge of $100 million to redress the ways in which the prestigious school benefited from slavery.
What are the details?
The report explains that “slavery—of Indigenous and of African people—was an integral part of life in Massachusetts and at Harvard during the colonial era.” In fact, between Harvard’s founding in 1636 and the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts in 1783, Harvard leaders and faculty enslaved more than 70 people. The report explained that Harvard had “extensive financial ties” and “profited” from slavery in ways that helped the institution grow its reputation.
The committee also found that the legacies of slavery “including racial segregation, exclusion, and discrimination, were a part of campus life well into the 20th century.”
In accordance with recommendations from the committee, Harvard announced a $100 million reparations fund that will be used for various reparative efforts.
“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,” Bacow 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.”
“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,” Bacow explained. “The work of further redressing its persistent effects will require our sustained and ambitious efforts for years to come.”
The committee also recommended supporting descendants whose ancestors were enslaved by Harvard officials or who worked on the campus, developing partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, honoring enslaved people and Native Americans, and working to ensure institutional accountability.
The Washington Post noted that Bacow’s statement stopped short of explicitly offering an apology for Harvard’s role in slavery.
Harvard’s endowment is more than $53 billion.