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Harvard University has committed $100 million to redress its early ties to slavery

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Harvard says it will make amends for what it calls its extensive ties to slavery from its founding in 1636 to after the Civil War. Harvard is the world's wealthiest private university, and it has now committed $100 million to redress that history. Max Larkin from member station WBUR reports.

MAX LARKIN, BYLINE: A 130-page faculty report identifies dozens of enslaved people who served Harvard's presidents, faculty and staff. and the university's endowment - now over $40 billion - was seeded with the wealth of slaveholders. Harvard's president, Lawrence Bacow, announced the plan in a video message published this morning.

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LAWRENCE BACOW: The legacy of slavery continues to influence the world in the form of disparities in education, health, wealth, income, social mobility and almost any other metric we might use to measure equality.

LARKIN: Bacow says it's Harvard's moral obligation to work toward repair. The university's governing board has set aside $100 million in that effort. Some may be spent on new partnerships with historically Black colleges or on memorials or on projects involving descendants of slavery.

Freshman Christian Gines says Harvard feels haunted by its history to him and his Black classmates. Gines says he worries that Harvard's commitment here, however large, will pale in comparison to the earnings on its big endowment, which includes investments in private prisons and foreign real estate.

CHRISTIAN GINES: There are still Black and brown people locked up today. They invest in a lot of Black and Indigenous land in America and throughout the world, whether that be in Brazil and Africa and in other places. And so there are structural things, not only in the past that they've done, but in the status quo that they're continuing to do, that they could easily disinvest and reinvest that in other places.

LARKIN: The university has formed a committee that will make concrete decisions on the use of the funds.

For NPR News, I'm Max Larkin in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Max Larkin - WBUR