April 7, 2016 - UNITED STATES - Harvard University has taken another step toward distancing the modern institution from its past ties with slavery. Meanwhile, the Economist withdrew a nearly comically misguided piece of writing from its website on Friday, admitting that a book review that called for a more objective treatment of slavery should never have made it through the editing process.
Harvard Acknowledges Its Role In SlaveryThe Boston Globe reports that university president Drew Faust acknowledged on Wednesday that Harvard was complicit in slavery.
“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,” Faust wrote in an op-ed published in the Harvard Crimson, the university’s student newspaper.
This comes just weeks after Harvard Law School announced it would replace its shield that included elements from the family crest of a slave owner who gave money to the university.
She announced a plan to unveil a plaque on April 6 that will honor four slaves who worked and lived in the campus home of a former Harvard president.
The Harvard Crimson said the plaque will display their names—Bilhah, Venus, Titus and Juba—and be placed at Wadsworth House, which was the former president’s home. Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) will join Faust at the installation ceremony.
“Until now, these laborers and their contributions, as well as the broader participation of people of color in early life at Harvard, have been all but invisible,” Faust wrote. “The plaque is the beginning of an effort to remember them and our shared history.”
In her op-ed, Faust, a historian who specializes in the Civil War and the South, explained that Harvard was “directly complicit” in slavery for a long period. Harvard’s involvement began from the time it was established in 1636 through Massachusetts’ abolition of slavery in 1783.
But it didn’t end there. She said the university continued an “indirect involvement through extensive financial and other ties” to the South up to emancipation.
Faust stated, “This is our history and our legacy, one we must fully acknowledge and understand in order to truly move beyond the painful injustices at its core.”
The Globe said the university’s professors and students applauded her announcement. But some said awarding a plaque isn’t enough. Senior Sarah Cole told the Boston Globe that the plaque is inadequate. What’s more, placing it where four human beings were enslaved is disrespectful.
Cole, who is Black, said the university should change the name of buildings that honor those involved in slavery and start a fund for descendants of slaves. - Newsone.
The Economist Admits Slavery Was Pretty ‘Evil’ After All
The magazine had published the review of Edward Baptist’s book “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism” on Thursday. The review, which, like nearly everything in The Economist, did not carry a byline, lamented that all the white people in the book—namely, the people who owned the slaves—were portrayed as bad for some reason:
Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.
Since even the most casual observer might imagine that a book about the mass enslavement of black people would inevitably portray the slaves as “victims,” the assertion that such a study required a “fair and balanced” approach drew near-universal befuddlement. The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates had one of the more pointed responses:
Read a book about the Holocaust. Must be unfair because it painted all the Nazis in a bad light.— Ta-Nehisi Coates (@tanehisicoates) September 4, 2014
By Friday morning, the magazine had revised its opinion and apologized:
There has been widespread criticism of this, and rightly so. Slavery was an evil system, in which the great majority of victims were blacks, and the great majority of whites involved in slavery were willing participants and beneficiaries of that evil. We regret having published this and apologise for having done so.
- Huffington Post.