Colleges are confronting their ties to slavery and wrestling over how to atone for past sins


Colleges and universities in the United States have studied its links to slavery extensively.

This is not a completely new phenomenon. Back in 2006, Brown University published a report showing that – from construction to equipment – the university participated in and benefited from the slave trade and slavery.

And since then, several other colleges and universities have disclosed their links to the use of slave labor.

For example Johns Hopkins University – whose namesake and founder was historically depicted as an abolitionist – – reported in December 2020 that its founder actually employs four enslaved people in his Baltimore household.

At least that is what a research group on slavery at the University of Mississippi found out 11 enslaved people worked on campus.

At Georgetown University, officials announced in 2016 that one of its presidents – Thomas Mulledy – sold 272 enslaved men, women and children in 1838 to save the university from bankruptcy. Revelation sparked an effort to seek out the people’s descendants and to atone through sacrifices Preferential approval – but no scholarships – so they can study in Georgetown.

Georgetown University has since committed to rearing $ 400,000 per year for reparations to help the living descendants of enslaved people sold by the school’s president in 1838. But some students have criticized the plan than not going far enough. Meanwhile, the implementation apparently has stalled.

Action steps discussed

Many universities benefited from slavery, and there was a growing discussion of what universities owe to the descendants of the people they enslaved and what they can do to atone.

In Virginia, for example, the Virginia House approved an invoice to demand five state universities founded before 1865 offer economic support and four-year scholarships descendants of enslaved people who worked on campus. The Virginia Senate passed the measure known as HB 1980.

From my point of view as a historian of Slavery, capitalism and racial inequality, the problem goes beyond anything “linksUS colleges and universities had to practice slavery. Even after slavery, these schools continued to oppress blacks do not allow enroll them as students.

Unequal access

Institutions using slave labor were slow to open up to African American students. Georgetown graduated from first black studentSamuel A. Halsey Jr., in 1953.

The University of Virginia graduated from its first black college student, Robert Bland, in 1959.

Admission to traditionally white universities, however, is part of the university puzzle. Historically, black colleges and universities, commonly known as HBCUs, continue to have one oversized role in ensuring the upward mobility of African Americans through higher education. Though the nation is 100 or so HBCUs make up less than 3% of the nation 4,360 Colleges and universities they graduated 13% by black students in the 2017-2018 school year nationally.

And the institutions that tend to enroll higher proportions from historically underrepresented groups – including African Americans – also tend to have the least well funded. This is important because students attending better funded colleges tend to do so Graduation with higher rates.

Financial differences

The differences go beyond higher education. White families tend to have on average 10 times the wealth of black families. The gap will likely grow in part because of that Racial pay gap expands.

Student loan debt also disproportionately affects black Americans.

Four years after graduation, black Americans have $ 25,000 more in debt than their white counterparts, in part because of additional graduate borrowing and accrued interest. As a result, African Americans face greater difficulties Loan repayment than their white counterparts.

Reparations are enough?

Universities begin to devote resources to efforts to atone for their role in slavery.

The Virginia Theological Seminary names $ 1.7 million as a reparations fund that is spent on scholarships and new curricula. Princeton Theological Seminary makes a contribution a $ 27 million The foundation is designed to fund scholarships, community engagement, curriculum development, and other efforts to atone for their ties to slavery.

St. Mary’s College in Maryland built that first monument enslaved people in southern Maryland on his campus. I spoke to St. Mary’s history professor Garrey Dennie, who says the college “creates a curriculum that takes into account the experiences of African American people both now and in the past” to correct past mistakes.

Scientists and economists studying racial economic inequality, such as: William A. Darity Jr.indicate the need for federal measures. This action can range from economic reparation and Foundation development at HBCUs to Debt relief for black students.

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While colleges and universities continue to examine how they benefited from slavery and excluded African Americans from their campuses for a century after slavery was abolished, reparations only for the descendants of those enslaved by agents of a particular college may only be part of it be of the equation.

In order to eradicate the educational gaps that persisted after slavery, I believe that former slave colleges need to address inequality on a much broader level. At the heart of the matter is the extent to which black Americans can afford to pay schools that once paid nothing for the work of the people they enslaved.

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