Harvard University Plans $100 Million Fund To Address Racial Disparities

Memorial Hall at Harvard University

Photo: Getty Images

One of the most prestigious universities in the country is reckoning with its racial history.

Harvard University released a 134-page report Tuesday (April 26) detailing how the Ivy League school benefitted from slave owners during its early days, according to NBC News. The report revealed that nearly 80 Harvard leaders, staff, and donors owned enslaved people, including five previous university presidents.

The committee, whose members wrote the report, went through wills, city records, and other documents to confirm this information. Slavey became illegal in Massachusetts following a state Supreme Court decision in 1783.

The documents also contain seven recommendations to "remedy the persistent educational and social harms that human bondage caused to descendants, to the campus community, and to surrounding cities, the Commonwealth, and the nation." Some of those suggestions include partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and investing in Black scholars.

"The legacy of slavery, including the persistence of both overt and subtle discrimination against people of color, continues to influence the world in the form of disparities in education, health, wealth, income, social mobility, and almost any other metric we might use to measure equality," University President Lawrence Bacow said, who authorized the report. "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 report was also part of the Presidential Initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery. Reporters say Bacow established this initiative in 2019 to document the lasting impact of slavery and provide solutions to modern-day racial disparities. Martha Minow, former dean of Harvard Law School, was appointed to lead the committee and turn promises into action.

Bacow also encourages current Harvard students, alumni, and staff to read the report.

"Many of you will find it disturbing and even shocking," Bacow said in a statement. "But 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. That, too, is a vital part of our history."

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