Harvard University, an institution directly involved in the institution of slavery at its beginnings in the 17th century, is opening up the conversation on its complicity in human bondage in Colonial America.
The Ivy League school is hosting a conference Friday, held by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, exploring the historical ties between slavery and early universities, including Harvard.
Scholars will present research on the topic and discuss how other colleges have confronted their connections to slavery. Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates is scheduled to speak.
Harvard unveiled a plaque last year honoring four slaves who lived and worked on campus in the 1700s. Harvard Law also has dropped an emblem that was tied to a slave-owning family.
University President Drew Faust, a historian, has called for more exploration of the school’s slavery ties.
“The importance of slavery in early New England was long ignored even by historians, and the presence and contributions of people of African descent at Harvard have remained a largely untold story,” Faust wrote in the Harvard Crimson last year. “But Harvard was directly complicit in America’s system of racial bondage from the College’s earliest days in the 17th century until slavery in Massachusetts ended in 1783, and Harvard continued to be indirectly involved through extensive financial and other ties to the slave South up to the time of emancipation.”
The Harvard and Slavery Initiative was started in 2007 to closely examine the relationship of the school to slavery and what affect it had on the enslaved on the school’s grounds. At least three presidents of the school owned slaves, according to studies.
Other universities have similarly sought to acknowledge their roles in slavery, including Georgetown and Columbia.
Harvard streamed it conference online Friday. Watch the video below.