Harvard University is attempting to make amends for the school’s history when it comes to slavery with the unveiling of a new plaque. This plaque is place on one of the most historic buildings at Harvard University. The building is where one of Harvard University’s first presidents lived, and it’s here that a number of slaves served President Benjamin Wadsworth from 1725 until 1737 according to the Daily Mail.
The Harvard University plaque, which was hung on the outside of the Wadsworth House, talks about a few pairs of slaves who served at Harvard University in particular. Named in the memorial are Titus and Venus, who served directly under Wadsworth. Juba and Bilhah are also listed on the slate plaque. Those slaves were serving under another Harvard University president by the name of Edward Holyoke, who was in charge of the school from 1737 until 1769
This move is the latest in what has been a rather large-scale move by Ivy League schools to acknowledge their roles in the slave trade when the country was still young. Harvard University has taken other steps in the past weeks and months to try to put that part of its history farther into its history. In February, the school it announced it was formally doing away with the official title of “House Master” after a number of students complained the name seemed to be harkening back to the days of slavery.
Harvard University is even thinking about changing its shield and school logo. While people outside the campus might not know it, the bundle of wheat that is on that shield is a tribute to an old plantation owner. Harvard isn’t the only university in the Ivy League that has announced it is either taking action or has taken action along the lines of these plaques. Yale is following in the footsteps of Harvard University. Yale is thinking about changing the name of one of its residential halls. Right now the building is named after John C. Calhoun. While Calhoun is quite the famous alumnus of the school, he was also a vice president who was an ardent supporter of slavery.
Sometimes an Ivy League school like Harvard University doesn’t even need direct ties to slavery in order to have people calling for a change. Princeton faculty are fielding a number of calls to drop the name of Woodrow Wilson from the name of one of their buildings because of his ties to a racist past. So far, that school has been rejecting those calls, claiming Wilson’s legacy has more than made up for him going along with a period of time that saw most of the country suffering through racist leanings. Harvard University is leading the way when it came to honoring the slaves that served it with the plaque.
At the unveiling, the current Harvard University president did the honors and gave a speech showing how important he felt the plaque is. President Drew Faust talked at the ceremony and said that Harvard “was directly complicit in America’s system of racial bondage,” and the plaque is meant to remember “stolen lives.” According to the New York Daily News. A number of dignitaries from around the country were at the ceremony, including Congressman John Lewis. Lewis has been a long time member of Washington’s leadership, representing South Carolina. Before he got into Congress, he marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in order to attempt to get equal rights for African Americans. The school obviously doesn’t believe hanging this kind of plaque makes everything it did when it came to slavery all better, but it’s clear Harvard University understands this kind of move can be important in making some kind of amends.
[AP Photo/Steven Senne]