As befits a scholarly institution, Harvard’s 134-page report, which includes two appendices, is dense, detailed and even “appalling,” said the university’s president, Lawrence S. Paco, in an email announcing the initiative to students, faculty, and staff.
She says that slaves were an “integral” part of the university in its early days. They lived in the president’s home on the Cambridge, Massachusetts campus, and were part of the fabric of everyday life, almost invisible.
The report stated that “enslaved men and women served Harvard’s presidents and professors and fed and nurtured Harvard students.”
While the image of New England in popular culture has been linked to the abolition of slavery, wealthy plantation owners and Harvard are dependent on each other, the report said.
“In the nineteenth century,” the report said, “the university and its donors profited from extensive financial ties to slavery.” These lucrative financial relationships included, in particular, the benefit of donors who had accumulated fortunes through the slave trade; of slave labor on plantations in the Caribbean islands and in the American South; And from the northern textile industry, supplied with cotton grown by enslaved slaves.”
In turn, the report said, the university benefited from loans to Caribbean sugar growers, rum distillers and plantation suppliers, and from investments in the cotton industry.
The report stated that early attempts to integrate met with stiff resistance from Harvard leaders, who favored it as a school for the upper white crust, including the wealthy white sons of the South.