Brown University released a report back in 2006 entitled “Slavery and Justice.” I just read it and found it well worth the time–I encourage you to read it.
A steering committee was formed at Brown whose purpose was twofold:
Our primary task was to examine the University’s historical entanglement with slavery and the slave trade and to report our findings openly and truthfully.
But we were also asked to reflect on the meaning of this history in the present, on the complex historical, political, legal, and moral questions posed by any present day confrontation with past injustice.
The little tiny state of Rhode Island (believe it or not) had a central role in the slave trade and the Brown brothers, for whom the school is named after, all played roles in the institution. The report goes into great detail using the school’s archives.
It provides a good overview of slavery in New England, and the website includes a database of all the historical documents used in the report. The report ends with several recommendations for the University in terms of moving forward, and the school responded by endorsing a set of initiatives based on the report.
Earlier this year, they recommended building a memorial to acknowledge the slaves ties of the University.
I think this is a good thing. Too many institutions today want to forget their historical ties to slavery when the exact opposite is what should be happening: acknowledging the truth and continuing to educate the public.
This is true moral leadership and I applaud Brown. The report stops short of offering apologies, but this was a bold and courageous move.
We are still, as a society, struggling with the effects of slavery–all of us. I hope other universities and institutions take heed.
I am an engineer by day, but my true passion lies in genealogy. I have been a researcher, writer, lecturer and teacher for over twenty years. This blog is where I share family history methods, resources, tips and advice, with an emphasis on slave research, slavery and its aftermath. This lifelong quest has helped me to better know my family’s past. I’ve taken back– reclaimed– some of that lost memory, especially that of my enslaved ancestors. I hope you’ll sign up to receive my posts—if you do, you’ll get a free PDF with some of my favorite tips! And please do share posts that interest you.