Special Reports

Ivy League Universities Reveal How Slavery Played A Part In Their History


The first university to have the initiative to delve into their ties with slavery was Brown University. Soon after, five more elite universities also made their own studies on the topic and posted their findings on their websites.

The other Ivy League universities that explored their part in the Atlantic slave trade were Yale University, Harvard University, Columbia University, University of Virginia, and Georgetown University. Each individual study was commissioned by the universities themselves and revealed some interesting information of how deeply ingrained slavery was in the academy.

The report from Columbia University included the story of John Parke Custis, the adopted son of George Washington, and his slave named Joe. According to the report, Joe was Custis' personal servant who accompanied him wherever he goes carrying different kinds of items for his master.

Eric Foner, a professor at Columbia who released the preliminary report, said that half of those who served as president of Columbia between 1754 and the Civil War were slave owners as well as some school officials.

Meanwhile, Georgetown University revealed that the John Carroll, the founder of the university, and Rev. Francis Neale, one of the early presidents of the institution, had slaves who sued them for their freedom. Moreover, the Jesuits from whom the founders of the university belong, were the largest slave owners in Maryland.

Harvard University, on the other hand, compiled all the resources and studies regarding the institution's ties with slavery into a book called "Harvard and Slavery: Seeking a Forgotten History" which can be accessed as a PDF file here. Even at the very beginning chapter, it already encouraged how deeply ingrained slavery is in the campus life of Harvard. It also showed that the earliest leaders of the university were slave owners.

The main reason why these studies were done is to invite discussion and seek what acts of commemoration and restitution is appropriate. By putting it out to the public, the community can discuss and eventually decide what's the most appropriate response. In addition to that, the studies also seek to educate people what emancipation really was and its significance to the modern times.

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