Harvard’s good-faith effort to reckon with its past should be applauded

  

Category:  Op/Ed

Via:  john-russell  •  3 weeks ago  •  16 comments

Harvard’s good-faith effort to reckon with its past should be applauded
a past that starts in the Colonial era, during which more than 70 people were enslaved by Harvard presidents and other leaders, faculty and staff. While noting the storied work of Harvard faculty, students and alumni who were vocal abolitionists, the report illuminated the lesser-known fact that wealthy donors enriched the school with money earned through slave-trading and businesses that depended on slavery, such as Caribbean sugar and Southern cotton. After the Civil War and into the 20th...

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www.washingtonpost.com   /opinions/2022/05/01/terrible-truth-how-slavery-shaped-harvard/

Harvard’s good-faith effort to reckon with its past should be applauded


Editorial Board 4-5 minutes   5/1/2022





“An institution entangled with American slavery and its legacies.” That was how a faculty committee described Harvard University in a   landmark study   documenting, in unflinching detail, the school’s extensive ties to slavery. The report detailed how enslaved people worked on the campus for more than 150 years, how the school benefited from extensive financial ties to slavery and how its academics promoted racist theories. At a time when some are trying to whitewash U.S. history, this bracing honesty is most welcome.


The   “Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery Report ,” which the university released last week after nearly 2½ years of work, chronicles a past that starts in the Colonial era, during which more than 70 people were enslaved by Harvard presidents and other leaders, faculty and staff. While noting the storied work of Harvard faculty, students and alumni who were vocal abolitionists, the report illuminated the lesser-known fact that wealthy donors enriched the school with money earned through slave-trading and businesses that depended on slavery, such as Caribbean sugar and Southern cotton. After the Civil War and into the 20th century, prominent faculty members promoted bogus theories of racial differences that were used to justify segregation, and the school was slow to open its doors to Black students as it catered to the nation’s White upper class.

The school pledged to spend $100 million to atone. The report suggests tracing the modern-day descendants of enslaved people at Harvard, forging partnerships to improve schools in the American South and the West Indies, and creating exchange programs between students and faculty members at Harvard and those at historically Black colleges and universities.

Harvard is not the first university to try to come to grips with its problematic past. Indeed, it has lagged behind others, such as   Georgetown University   and   Brown University , and its efforts came under immediate criticism. Why did it take Harvard so long? Couldn’t $100 million be better spent directly helping the victims of bigotry and belittlement? The university expected this criticism. “We are not naive. This is an age of deep social divisions, and we know our efforts may be met with criticism and cynicism,” Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow and Tomiko Brown-Nagin, the scholar who led Harvard’s effort, wrote in   The Post . The university can show its commitment to making amends by ensuring its money goes to causes that achieve maximum good for those still struggling under the country’s brutal legacy of slavery and racism.

The fact is nothing — no amount of scholarly research, no amount of money — will ever atone for the sin of slavery. But Harvard’s good-faith effort to acknowledge that terrible truth should not be condemned; it should be applauded.




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JohnRussell
Professor Principal
1  seeder  JohnRussell    3 weeks ago

The critics call Harvard's efforts "wokeism", when what it really is,  is simple recognition of reality. 

Also note that Harvard's connection to slavery dates back to the Colonial era, pre Declaration of Independence. Are those on the white right still going to claim that Harvard's history is not American history? 

 
 
 
Thrawn 31
Professor Guide
1.1  Thrawn 31  replied to  JohnRussell @1    3 weeks ago

Americas history is deeply intertwined with slavery, attempting to deny that is denying reality. Too bad a significant percentage of the population is too stubborn or too stupid to acknowledge that fact. 

But hey, what happened happened and nothing can change it or make it right for those who were wronged. As I said below, the least that can be done is acknowledge it, right the wrongs however we can, and try to be better going forward. Some refuse to admit America is anything but perfect though. They are like the parents who think their children can do no wrong and pretend their child doesn’t have a heroin addiction. 

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Expert
1.2  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  JohnRussell @1    3 weeks ago
Are those on the white right still going to claim that Harvard's history is not American history? 

Maybe they will claim that Harvard's history began in the Colonial era.

 
 
 
Thrawn 31
Professor Guide
2  Thrawn 31    3 weeks ago

Good for them for acknowledging the truth, regardless of how ugly, and apparently making an effort to atone. Obviously it doesn’t do those who were actually harmed and good, but at least they can try to be better and make things better going forward. That’s all you can ask or expect.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.1  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Thrawn 31 @2    3 weeks ago

Of course you are correct. Why is this controversial? 

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Expert
2.1.1  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1    3 weeks ago
Why is this controversial? 

The editorial gave two examples of criticism:

Why did it take Harvard so long?

Couldn’t $100 million be better spent directly helping the victims of bigotry and belittlement?

A third might be that Harvard's brutal past extends to more than Black Americans.  Harvard sits on the ancestral homelands of Native Americans.  The Massachusett and Nipmuc tribes are the descendants of the original people that English invaders first encountered during the colonization of what is now the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Many were killed  by small pox and other European disease, and many more in the genocidal Great Narragansett War (1675–76), one of the bloodiest conflicts per capita in North American history.  How much should Harvard pledge to dismantle colonialist structures now and into the future?

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2.1.2  Kavika   replied to  Drinker of the Wry @2.1.1    3 weeks ago

Harvard has a long history involving Native Americas. Its charter of 1650 pledges Harvard to ''the education of English and Indian youth''

In fact, two Wampanoag tribe members graduated from Harvard in 1665, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuch and Joel Hiacoomes.

After that, not much attention was given to NAs at Harvard until the 1970s. I believe that there are around 1,200 NA alumni of Harvard currently. It was just in the last few years that another Wampanoag graduated from Harvard.

Ah yes, Great Narragansett War also known as King Philips war showed the genocidal side of the white Christians and the continued and expanded enslavement of NAs. I think that one could say that it was only one step in the destruction of native tribes/people in what would become a continuing saga in both pre US and followed by the same Doctrine of Discovery mindset after the D of I. 

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Expert
2.1.3  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  Kavika @2.1.2    3 weeks ago

Thanks Kavika.  

Its charter of 1650 pledges Harvard to ''the education of English and Indian youth''

Was that a version of 'white man's burden' to civilize the 'noble savage'?

I see that Harvard recognized the NA Alumni as a shared interest group in 2007, I guess that is progress.  

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2.1.4  Kavika   replied to  Drinker of the Wry @2.1.3    3 weeks ago
Was that a version of 'white man's burden' to civilize the 'noble savage'?

To convert the Indians to Christianity is probably the more accurate description. 

Currently, Harvard is in a battle with NA over Harvard's violation of the Federal Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Expert
2.1.5  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  Kavika @2.1.4    3 weeks ago
Harvard is in a battle with NA over Harvard's violation of the Federal Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Still dealing with the Narragansett Tribe with lies and bad-faith dealings while holing on to the remains of over 9,000 NA in it's 'collection'.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
2.1.6  Kavika   replied to  Drinker of the Wry @2.1.5    3 weeks ago

We are not only dealing with Harvard but numerous universities, museums, and private collections in the US and worldwide.

The problem goes well beyond Harvard.

 
 
 
1stwarrior
Professor Guide
2.1.7  1stwarrior  replied to  Kavika @2.1.4    3 weeks ago

And they have been since its enactment.

 
 
 
1stwarrior
Professor Guide
2.2  1stwarrior  replied to  Thrawn 31 @2    3 weeks ago

What truth did they acknowledge?  Only that they had DONORS who made large DONATIONS to the school and those DONORS made a lot of money from USING SLAVES FOR THEIR LABOR.

So, WHY should Harvard have to expend its funds in the form of reparations - they didn't have slaves - they didn't keep slaves - they didn't use slave labor - slaves didn't earn any monies for Harvard.

So, why should Harvard make an reparations?????

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
3  Sparty On    3 weeks ago

Good for them.    

Meanwhile Harvard’s degree costs continue to climb at a precipitous rate and the current admin is considering dumping that cost on every taxpayer.    This will just make it worse.

Every taxpayer without a degree should be pissed, every taxpayer with a degree that paid off their student loans in good faith, should be pissed.

Harvard has a huge endowment.    More power to them if they take this entire “atonement” out of that endowment and don’t pass it on to students.

Fat chance of that happening .....

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
4  Texan1211    3 weeks ago

Does anyone really care what Harvard chooses to spend its money on?

Will this money be spent effectively and really make any difference?

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
4.1  Sparty On  replied to  Texan1211 @4    3 weeks ago

It will put a little salve on their white guilt.    Plus they’ll be able to stick it to the man a little better with higher tuition to help pay for it.

A win win for Harvard Academia ..

 
 

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