On Tuesday, Harvard University announced it is setting up a $100 million endowment fund to address and further study the school’s ties to slavery.
As the New York Times reports, the school has committed $100 million to create an endowed “Legacy of Slavery Fund.” The money will contribute to continued research and memorialization of the school’s historical use of labor by enslaved people, with the university set to work with descendants of those enslaved at Harvard and nearby communities.
“Harvard benefited from and in some ways perpetuated practices that were profoundly immoral,” said Harvard’s president Lawrence S. Bacow in an email to students and staff. “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.”
The email included a 100-page report by the school’s 14-member Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery. The ways Harvard benefitted from the slave trade and other industries linked to slavery are laid out in the report, which also documented scholars from the campus advocating for racism and the exclusion of Black students.
“The nation’s oldest institution of higher education...helped to perpetuate the era’s racial oppression and exploitation,” reads the report, which recommends offering descendants of those enslaved educational support in order to “recover their histories, tell their stories, and pursue empowering knowledge.”
The president added in his email, “Slavery and its legacy have been a part of American life for more than 400 years. The work of further redressing its persistent effects will require our sustained and ambitious efforts for years to come.”
Bacow commissioned the Presidential Initiative on Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery in 2019. Harvard’s new endowment fund matches the money pledged by the leaders of the Jesuit conference of priests last year.