Conferences & Symposia

Universities and Slavery: Bound by History

Daguerreotype of Renty, an African-born slave, taken by J.T. Zealy in 1850. Commissioned by Louis Agassiz. Peabody Museum, Harvard UniversityDaguerreotype of Renty, an African-born slave, taken by J.T. Zealy in 1850. Commissioned by Louis Agassiz. Peabody Museum, Harvard University

In March 2016, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, in an opinion piece in the Harvard Crimson, urged the university to more fully acknowledge and understand its links to slavery, stating, “The past never dies or disappears. It continues to shape us in ways we should not try to erase or ignore.”

On March 3, 2017, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University will host a daylong conference to explore the relationship between slavery and universities, across the country and around the world.

The faculty conference organizers are Harvard professors 

  • Sven Beckert, Laird Bell Professor of History
  • Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies
  • Daniel Carpenter, director of the social sciences program at the Radcliffe Institute and Allie S. Freed Professor of Government

The conference builds on the Harvard and Slavery initiative, founded in 2007, in which students and faculty—led by Beckert—began a detailed examination of Harvard’s range of connections to slavery. 

#unislavery

Schedule

9 a.m.

Welcome

Lizabeth Cohen, Dean of the Radcliffe Institute and Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, Harvard University

9:15 a.m.

Opening remarks

Drew Gilpin Faust, President of Harvard University and Lincoln Professor of History

9:30 a.m.

KEYNOTE

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Journalist, national correspondent for The Atlantic, author of Between the World and Me and The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood

Conversation between Ta-Nehisi Coates and Drew Gilpin Faust

10:30 a.m.

Break

10:45 a.m.

SLAVERY AND UNIVERSITIES NATIONALLY

Moderator: Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Adam Rothman, Professor of History, Georgetown University

James T. Campbell, Edgar E. Robinson Professor in United States History, Stanford University

Craig Steven Wilder, Barton L. Weller Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

12:15 p.m.

Lunch break 

1:15 p.m.

Poetry reading

Introduced by: Vincent Brown RI '06, Charles Warren Professor of American History and Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Natasha Trethewey RI '01, former United States Poet Laureate, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing, Emory University

1:30 p.m.

Slavery and Harvard

Moderator: Annette Gordon-Reed RI '16, Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History, Harvard Law School, and Professor of History, Harvard University

Sven Beckert, Laird Bell Professor of History, Harvard University

Julian Bonder, Principal, Wodiczko + Bonder and Julian Bonder + Associates; Professor of Architecture, Roger Williams University

Daniel R. Coquillette, J. Donald Monan, S.J. University Professor, Boston College Law School

Alexandra Rahman ’12, Student contributor to the Harvard and Slavery Research Project

3 p.m.

Break

3:15 p.m.

Slavery and Universities Globally

Moderator: Alejandro de la Fuente, Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics; Professor of African and African American Studies and of History; Director, Afro-Latin American Research Institute, Harvard University

Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies

Max Price, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town

Christiane Taubira, former Minister of Justice (France)

4:45 p.m.

Concluding remarks

Daniel Carpenter, Director of the Social Sciences Program at the Radcliffe Institute; Allie S. Freed Professor of Government, Harvard University

5 p.m.

reception