Harvard to honor slaves who worked on campus in 1700s

Wed Mar 30, 2016 11:25am EDT
 
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) - Harvard University plans to install a plaque next week honoring four slaves who worked on the campus in the 1700s, to acknowledge its role in slavery, the Ivy League university's president said on Wednesday.

"Although we embrace and regularly celebrate the storied traditions of our nearly 400-year history, slavery is an aspect of Harvard's past that has rarely been acknowledged or invoked," Drew Faust said in an op-ed in the Harvard Crimson student newspaper. "Harvard was directly complicit in America's system of racial bondage from the college's earliest days in the 1700s until slavery in Massachusetts ended in 1783."

University officials on April 6 will install a plaque on Wadsworth House, the second-oldest building on campus, which formerly served as the university president's home and now is an office building. It will honor four slaves named Bilhah, Venus, Titus and Juba, who worked in the university president's home in the 18th century.

Earlier in March, the prestigious university decided to drop the 80-year-old coat of arms of its law school, because it featured the family crest of a slaveholder who was an early donor to the institution.

Students at dozens of U.S. colleges and universities including Harvard staged protests last fall over the legacies of racism on campus. The protests led to the resignation of president of the University of Missouri and prompted to schools including Yale, Brown and Princeton to review their commitment to diversity.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

 
A statue of John Harvard looks over Harvard Yard at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts January 20, 2015.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder