Harvard Puts Its 'Extensive Financial Ties' to Slavery on Display in Report

Harvard University published a report detailing the university's connections to slavery in the 17th and 18th centuries, promising to rectify its "extensive entanglements" to the slave trade.

The prestigious school, an alma mater for many celebrities and famous academics, published the report titled "Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery." It is a ten-chapter account of the university's historical ties to slavery in Massachusetts.

In an attempt to reconcile with its past, the report laid out the ways in which slavery benefited the institution, even detailing that enslaved people worked on campus in the 1600s.

"Through connections to multiple donors, the University had extensive financial ties to, and profited from, slavery during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries," read one of the findings from the report.

Lawrence S. Bacow, president of Harvard University, said in a message Tuesday: "The report makes plain that slavery in America was by no means confined to the South. It was embedded in the fabric and the institutions of the North, and it remained legal in Massachusetts until the Supreme Judicial Court ruled it unconstitutional in 1783."

"By that time, Harvard was nearly 150 years old. And the truth is that slavery played a significant part in our institutional history," Bacow continued.

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Harvard University published a report detailing its extensive ties to slavery in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. In this photo, a man walks through campus at Harvard University during a snowstorm on January 29, 2022 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Harvard was founded in 1636. For 150 years, the university enslaved more than 70 people, the report said, listing the names of all the enslaved people in an appendix.

"Enslaved people worked on our campus supporting our students, faculty, and staff, including several Harvard presidents. The labor of enslaved people both far and near enriched numerous donors and, ultimately, the institution," said Bacow.

The report also detailed how the institution and its donors profited from slavery. It said that donors "accumulated their wealth through slave trading; from the labor of enslaved people on plantations in the Caribbean islands and in the American South; and from the Northern textile manufacturing industry, supplied with cotton grown by enslaved people held in bondage."

The school also pledged $100 million to fund a committee dedicated to putting the report's recommendations into action to "redress—through teaching, research, and service—our legacies with slavery."

"We cannot dismantle what we do not understand, and we cannot understand the contemporary injustice we face unless we reckon honestly with our history," said Tomiko Brown-Nagin, chair of the committee in charge of the report and professor at Harvard.

This is not the first study Harvard has put out about its historical entanglements. The report also explained that another professor and a group of undergraduate students began studying the school's history and published a report in 2011. Several smaller reports followed, including research on Harvard's benefactors and, more recently, buildings on campus named after a person who participated in the expulsion of Black students.

Bacow concluded: "In releasing this report and committing ourselves to following through on its recommendations, we continue a long tradition of embracing the challenges before us."

In February, Harvard made headlines when three female graduate students alleged that the university ignored their claims that an anthropology professor sexually harassed students.

Newsweek reached out to Harvard for additional comment.