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Harvard Promises $100M in Funding to Atone for Role in Slavery

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Harvard University has promised to set aside $100 million for an endowment fund financing research and initiatives intended to address the injustice of its involvement in slavery and racism. 

President Lawrence Bacow announced the pledge in an email, including a link to a 100-page report from the Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery detailing how the university profited from the work of enslaved Africans. 

It was found that Harvard enslaved approximately 70 Black and Native American people from 1636 to 1783. However, some researchers believe that the number is actually far higher. The institution also invested in the sugar, rum, and cotton industries during slavery.

“Enslaved men and women served Harvard presidents and professors and fed and cared for Harvard students. Moreover, throughout this period and well into the 19th century, the University and its donors benefited from extensive financial ties to slavery,” the report read.

The university also mentioned its plans to identify and assist descendants of enslaved people who worked on campus to atone for its role in slavery and racial inequality.

Atonement

Adding to Harvard’s sins was its reliance on wealthy donors who became rich from the slave trade and promoted white supremacy for many years after slavery was abolished.

Bacow acknowledged the school’s faults and described the findings as “disturbing and shocking.” 

“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,” he wrote.

“The Harvard that I have known, while far from perfect, has always tried to be better — to bring our lived experience ever closer to our high ideals. In releasing this report and committing ourselves to following through on its recommendations, we continue a long tradition of embracing the challenges before us,” said Bacow.

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