The legacy of slavery is still present today in overt and covert forms of discrimination against “people of color” in the United States, Harvard University President Professor Lawrence S. Bacow pointed out in an email to students and faculty on Tuesday. It is therefore necessary for the university to do whatever it can to address its part in this legacy, Bacow said, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education newspaper. Harvard University benefited from slavery and helped perpetuate the exploitative system and its “deeply immoral” practices. This is shown in a 130-page report analyzing the university’s links to the system of slavery, which was accompanied by Bacow’s message. The university will invest $100 million to implement the report’s recommendations, although it has no legal obligation to do so.
In the state of Massachusetts, where the university is located, slavery was legal until 1783. Slaves would have worked on campus and supported students and employees. In addition, slave labor also contributed to the wealth of donors and supporters of the university, so that the university benefited indirectly. In addition, until the abolition of slavery in the United States of America in 1865, racial rules would have limited the presence of African Americans on campus.
The report explains that, in addition to directly enslaving people, researchers at the university worked up until the 1850s to confirm the supposed supremacy of the white race. Black students had defended themselves against unfair treatment. The report also refers to steps that the university has already taken to become a place with more variety and diversity. The report recommends supporting the descendants of enslaved people, such as through research or teacher training, promoting partnerships with historically black-dominated colleges and universities, and establishing a fund to finance the university’s reparations efforts.
Of the Message is the result of the work of a presidential committee set up in 2019 to analyze the university’s slavery past. It was created with the cooperation of all colleges belonging to the university.