Harvard recently released a 130-plus-page report shedding light on its past, especially when America was bringing in slaves from Africa. This investigation reveals a surprising fact: the staff of prestigious American universities employed more than sixty slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Harvard staff, along with its president, allegedly employed 70 slaves between 1683 and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision after 150 years that made the practice illegal. Some of them even worked on the university campus.
Slavery in New England
The history of Harvard is inherently related to the history of New England and Massachusetts, the state where we find the famous institution. In the 1600s, this region of America brought in many inhabitants from African countries to enslave them. In the early 1700s, nearly twenty trips were made.
In 1638, two years after the founding of Harvard, a ship, the Desired, returned from his trip to Africa and the moors at Boston Harbor. Some believe that the first slave belonging to one of the members of the prestigious university, the dean at this time in this case, would come on this boat.
In Massachusetts, there was a community of 33,000 living in the late 1600s. Various reports indicate that the number of slaves was “relatively low”. There are about 200 people, mostly from Madagascar and Guinea. It should be noted, however, that if the inhabitants of this state employed some slaves, it was not because of personal belief, but because of fear of seeing the increase of the foreign population.
However, in the 1700s, the number of slaves in Massachusetts increased. From 200 in 1675 it became 550 in 1708, then about 2,000 in 1720. It must be said that the population of settlers also increased, reaching a total of 94,000 living in this state. So, naturally the richest prominent member of Harvard began to buy slaves.
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The presence of slaves on the Harvard campus was verified
Harvard has had a close connection to slavery from its early days. In fact, the American university accepted, from 1640, the children of wealthy sugarcane owners that they themselves exploited slaves who came from African or Indian countries. The report published by Harvard indicates that in total, nearly 70 slaves were purchased by the professors or deans of the establishment. Some of them even worked on campus, obviously free of charge.
The one who owns the most slaves is undoubtedly one of the Harvard administrators [ceux qui s’occupaient des achats de matériel et de nourriture de l’université, NDLR], Andrew Bordman. He bought eight. The future president of Harvard, Benjamin Wadsworth, has even witnessed the purchase of one of them for $ 40, or about $ 2,800 today. One of her slaves, Jane, who died at the age of 22, has her grave still in Harvard Cemetery. His epitaph reads: Jane a Negro Servant of Andrew Bordman “. Some Harvard professors have even hired minor slaves.
Harvard as a place of education and openness to the world, slavery quickly raised many questions. A debate was still held in the late 1670s, shortly before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision on the illegality of slavery. Two students who wanted to enter a bachelor’s degree at Harvard spoke on the subject. Eliphalet Pearson, who defended a pro-slavery position, indicated that this work was a “favor” done by the Americans to the Africans, explaining that the colonists had left a country where the they just know ” tyranny “at” suffering “.
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The financial benefits Harvard derived from slavery
As the report published in April points out, Harvard has long benefited, from a financial perspective, from slavery and from the market created around this topic. The university has already received a large number of monetary donations from wealthy owners of sugar and cotton farms. The report published by the establishment does not, however, specify the value of the totals. However, it did feature several benefactors whose fortunes were often produced through slavery, including Samuel Winthrop and Isaac Royall Jr.
In the 19th century, despite the ban on having slaves, Harvard still benefited from the slavery business. The report published last month states that in the first half of this century, a third of donations or pledges came from five people who made their fortunes through the trade or sale of slaves. James Perkins donated $ 20,000 (about $ 450,000). Most of his money came from the resale of slaves in the Caribbean.
Amid the conflicts surrounding the abolition of slavery, Harvard is a reflection of American society. Southerners defended their pro-slavery position. However, many groups were formed, such as the Cambridge Anti-Slavery Society, created by students and professors from Cambridge and Harvard.
After the report is published, Harvard conducts
With the publication of this report, Harvard took several steps, starting with creating a $ 100 million fund called Legacy of Slavery Fund. It will first be used to create courses to allow future generations to be aware of the links between Harvard and slavery. As the New York Times reported, such an amount is very rare in higher education in America.
In addition, Harvard undertakes to create memories and to promote exchanges between professors and students, and universities that have no connection to slavery or are located in the countries of origin of slaves. Finally, the establishment also wants to address differences in access to higher education.
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