Telling the Truth about All This: Reckoning with Slavery and Its Legacies at Harvard and Beyond | Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University

“Nations reel and stagger on their way; they make hideous mistakes; they commit frightful wrongs; they do great and beautiful things. And shall we not best guide humanity by telling the truth about all this, so far as the truth is ascertainable?”
—W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860–1880 (1935)

Over the past two decades, universities around the world have begun to engage with their legacies related to slavery. Many have issued reports detailing some of their historical ties to slavery, the substantial financial benefits the institutions and their affiliates extracted from slave economies, and universities’ intellectual contributions to racist ideologies and practices. At the same time, this research has uncovered a long history of African American resistance, and we are just beginning to address the impact of legacies of slavery on Black students at these institutions into the 21st century.

With this history uncovered, we must now ask: What must institutions of higher education do? What types of repair work can and should we undertake? We will explore these questions in our conference through discussions about a range of topics, including engagement with descendant communities, legacies of slavery in libraries and museums, and novel public engagement and educational opportunities.

This program is presented as part of the Presidential Initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, a University-wide effort anchored at Harvard Radcliffe Institute.

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