Harvard creates millionaire fund for reparations policies

Yesterday, Harvard University announced the creation of a fund to finance research, education and memory projects on racism and slavery from the 17th to the 19th centuries in the United States. The objective is to “repair” the slave memory in the country, after a report shows that the institution contributed, in the past, to corroborate racist theses.

The announcement was made in a letter published by the president of the university, Lawrence Bacow, addressed to the students, professors and employees of the institution, founded in 1636 in Cambridge, in the state of Massachusetts, in the United States.

The initiative is part of a movement to recognize and repair slavery in the country, which has gained strength in the university environment in recent years. Slavery was officially abolished by the 13th Constitutional Amendment in December 1865. According to Bacow, “Slavery and its heritage have been a part of American history for more than 400 years. coming years”, he declared.

The decision was announced after the publication of a university committee report that proposed recommendations to financially “redress” the exploitation of generations of millions of people forcibly deported from Africa and Europe to America.

The document shows, for example, that until the 20th century, university presidents and professors taught and promoted racial theories such as eugenics, a practice that advocated the “improvement” of the human race by genetic selection. At Harvard in the 17th and 18th centuries, various members and presidents enslaved more than 70 people, until the practice was outlawed in Massachusetts in 1783.

Institution sheltered eugenics theses

As an example of what happened at the institution, in 2019, Tamara Lanier, an American who claims to be a descendant of slaves, sued the university for having photographed members of her family in 1850. The images were used by the famous biologist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), known for his work on polar ice caps, but also for his racist theories, which aimed to prove the superiority of white people.

According to Tamara Lanier, her ancestors, known as Renty and Delia, would have been forced to pose nude for an Agassiz project. The professor’s goal, she says, was to prove the biological inferiority of blacks. “Harvard took advantage of and, in a certain way, perpetuated deeply immoral practices,” said the institution’s president. He acknowledged that the university has a “moral responsibility” in funding research projects that will help mitigate the harmful social and personal effects unleashed by such practices.

Other institutions join the initiative

Racism is intrinsic to American society and its consequences are palpable, as shown, for example, by the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained greater visibility after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, who was killed by a police officer. white.

In addition to Harvard, other institutions have taken similar initiatives to “pay” their historic debt related to slavery. Last year, the leaders of the Jesuit priests’ conference defended the allocation of US$ 100 million to compensation for the descendants of slaves who were owned by the religious order.

In 2019, students at Georgetown University approved a fund to benefit descendants of slaves sold by the elite Jesuit school in the 19th century. Brown and Columbia universities also acknowledged having participated in the slave trade.

(RFI and AFP)

About Abhishek Pratap

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