Harvard recently released a 130-page report that sheds light on the past, especially when America brought in slaves from Africa. This research reveals a surprising fact: the staff of the prestigious American university used more than 60 slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Harvard employees, including the president, are said to have used 70 slaves between 1683 and the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling 150 years later to make the practice illegal. Some of them even worked on the university campus.
Slavery in New England
The history of Harvard is inextricably linked with that of New England and Massachusetts, the state in which we find the famous institution. In the 17th century, this American region brought many inhabitants from African countries to enslave them. By the early 18th century, nearly twenty voyages had been made.
In 1638, two years after Harvard was founded, a ship, the Longed for, returns from her journey to Africa and moors in Boston Harbor. Some believe that the first slave who belonged to one of the members of the prestigious university, in this case the dean of the time, would have gotten into this boat.
In Massachusetts, there was a community of 33,000 residents in the late 1600s. The various reports indicate that the number of slaves was “relatively low.” There were about 200 people, mostly from Madagascar and Guinea. It should be noted, however, that if the inhabitants of this state made relatively little use of slaves, it was not out of personal conviction, but out of fear of seeing the foreign population increase.
Still, the number of slaves in Massachusetts skyrocketed in the 18th century. It went from 200 in 1675 to 550 in 1708, then about 2,000 in 1720. It must be said that the population of settlers had also increased, to a total of 94,000 inhabitants in this state. So it’s only natural that the most prosperous prominent members of Harvard would start buying slaves.
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Presence of slaves on Harvard campus verified
Harvard had a close connection with slavery from the start. Indeed, from 1640 the American university welcomed the children of the rich sugarcane owners who themselves exploited slaves from countries of Africa or India. The report published by Harvard indicates that a total of nearly 70 slaves were bought by professors or deans of the establishment. Some of them even worked on campus, without pay, of course.
The one who owned the most slaves is undoubtedly one of the Harvard stewards [ceux qui s’occupaient des achats de matériel et de nourriture de l’université, NDLR]† André Bordman. He had bought eight. Future Harvard president Benjamin Wadsworth even witnessed the purchase of one of them for $40, or about $2,800 today. One of his slaves, Jane, who died at age 22, still has her grave in Harvard Cemetery. His epitaph reads: Jane a Negro Servant by Andrew Bordman Some Harvard professors had even bought underage slaves.
Because Harvard was a place of education and openness to the world, slavery quickly raised many questions. A debate was even held in the late 1670s, shortly before the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled on the illegality of slavery. Two students who wanted to do a bachelor’s degree at Harvard talked about the topic. Eliphalet Pearson, who defended a pro-slavery stance, indicated that this practice was a “favor” Americans were doing to Africans, explaining that the settlers had withdrawn from a country they only knew about.” tyranny ” and ” trouble †
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The Financial Benefits Harvard Took Out of Slavery
As the report published in April indicates, Harvard has long benefited financially from slavery and from the marketplace that has sprung up around it. The university has already received a significant number of monetary donations from wealthy sugar and cotton farm owners. However, the report published by the establishment does not state the amount of the amounts. However, it highlights a few benefactors whose fortunes were largely made through slavery, including Samuel Winthrop and Isaac Royall Jr.
In the 19th century, despite the ban on having slaves, Harvard still profited from slavery. 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 trading or selling slaves. James Perkins donated $20,000 (about $450,000). His money comes mainly from the resale of Caribbean slaves.
At the heart of the conflicts surrounding the abolition of slavery, Harvard was a reflection of American society. Southerners defended their pro-slavery position. Yet many groups have been formed, such as the Cambridge Anti-Slavery Society, founded by students and professors from Cambridge and Harvard.
Following the publication of the report, Harvard commits to:
Following the publication of this report, Harvard took several steps, beginning with the creation of a $100 million fund called Slavery Legacy Fund† It will first be used to create courses to make future generations aware of the links between Harvard and slavery. As the New York Times reports, such an amount is very rare in American higher education.
In addition, Harvard is committed to creating memorials and facilitating exchanges between professors and students, and universities unrelated to slavery or located in countries of origin of slaves. Finally, the establishment also wants to tackle inequalities in access to higher education.
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