The Harvard Crimson publication says the “letter, dated Oct. 30, recalls how Isaac Royall Jr., a plantation owner and slave trader who operated in Antigua, donated money to Harvard in 1815 to create the first endowed law professorship. The emblem became the seal of Harvard Law School in 1937.”
“Reparation from Harvard would compensate for its development on the backs of our people,” Browne wrote. “Reparation is not aid; it is not a gift; it is compensation to correct the injustices of the past and restore equity. Harvard should be in the forefront of this effort,” Browne’s letter said.
According to the Harvard Crimson, President, Bacow in a reply to Browne,in a letter Tuesday, pointed out actions taken during Faust’s presidency to acknowledge Harvard’s connections to slavery, including the installation of a memorial commemorating the enslaved individuals that contributed to Harvard Law School’s founding.
Bacow said he considers the memorial’s establishment — along with the removal of the Law School’s seal containing the Royall family crest in 2016 — to be in “significant steps” toward acknowledging Harvard’s history, but noted the need for additional work.
“We recognize that there is more work to be done,” Bacow wrote. “Indeed, Harvard is determined to take additional steps to explore this institution's historical relationship with slavery and the challenging moral questions that arise when confronting past injustices and their legacies. Harvard is also committed to working with other educational institutions to study slavery and its legacy.”
Browne’s letter comes as Harvard has increasingly been forced to reckon with its ties to slavery in recent years. In March, Tamara K. Lanier filed a lawsuit claiming that the University possessed and profited from daguerreotypes of her ancestors that are believed to be the oldest existing photographs of American slaves.
The letter also notes that Sir Ronald M. Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States, has previously written two letters to Harvard — one addressed to Bacow in November 2018 and the other to former University President Drew G. Faust in October 2016. Those letters also outlined demands for reparations to be contributed to education in Antigua and Barbuda.
The Crimson said “Ambassador Sanders pointed out that, consequently, the reputation that Harvard enjoys internationally is intertwined with the dark legacy of Royall's Antigua slaves who died in oppression, uncompensated for their lives in slavery and their death in cruelty,” Browne wrote in his letter. “In this context, he sought a genuine effort by Harvard to make amends to the people of Antigua for the gains Harvard enjoyed at the expense of their kinfolk.
“Specifically, in his letter to you of 26 November 2018, Ambassador Sanders proposed assistance from Harvard to Antigua and Barbuda in the field of education as a form of making amends to the country,” Browne added.
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