The University of Chicago (UC) has received numerous demands for reparations due to the school’s connections to slavery.
However, campus officials argue that it was the university’s previous iteration, completely different from the current version, that benefited from trading enslaved Africans.
Despite calls to admit its past mistakes and make amends, UC is defending its view that the old and new institutions are completely separate. The school has since removed a stone and bronze plaque from campus honoring former Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas, who founded UC in 1856.
Douglas inherited a plantation and enslaved people from his father-in-law.
“With that, Stephen A. Douglas was able to get into the Chicago real estate market. Then he starts to get into philanthropy. One of the organizations he gives money to is this upstart Baptist organization, and that is called the University of Chicago,” Caine Jordan, a UChicago African American History graduate student, explained.
Past is Past
Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and other universities have been under fire after their dark pasts were revealed, whether they profited from the trade or used slaves to build their campuses.
“Everything in the United States is rooted in the history of slavery,” Northwestern University Professor Leslie Harris explained. “Any institution that we think of that is founded during, and even for a significant period of time after, the slave trade is rooted in the money, the wealth that was produced by slavery.”
However, UC remains adamant that its hands are clean of the misdeeds committed by the previous institution. In a statement sent to WTTW News, the school also highlighted the philanthropic investments it has made in the community, including health care services, college readiness programs, and assistance to local businesses.
“The University of Chicago that exists today was founded in 1890. The earlier university was founded by Douglas in 1856 and financially collapsed in 1886, with no endowment and its land and buildings foreclosed by creditors,” the university spokesperson said.