Events & exhibitions
event • Lectures

The Enduring Legacy of Slavery and Racism in the North

  • Thursday, October 8, 2020
    4 PM ET
  • Online on Zoom
Plaque reading: “In honor of the enslaved whose labor created wealth that made possible the founding of Harvard Law School. May we pursue the highest ideals of law and justice in their memory.”
Memorial installed on the Harvard Law School campus in 2017, honoring the enslaved people whose labor created the wealth of Harvard Law School’s founding benefactor Isaac Royall, Jr. Photo by Kevin Grady/Harvard Radcliffe Institute

Although Massachusetts formally abolished slavery in 1783, the visible and invisible presence of slavery continued in the Commonwealth and throughout New England well into the 19th century. Harvard professor Louis Agassiz’s theory about human origins is but one example of the continued presence and institutionalization of racism in the North. Taking as a starting point the new book To Make Their Own Way in the World: The Enduring Legacy of the Zealy Daguerreotypes, this panel of experts will examine the role and impact of slavery in the North and discuss the influence of Agassiz and how Black abolitionists responded to scientific racism.

This program is presented as part of the Presidential Initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, a University-wide effort housed at Harvard Radcliffe Institute, and is cosponsored by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture.

This event is part of Worldwide Week at Harvard 2020, which showcases the remarkable breadth of Harvard’s global engagement.

Event Video

A sepia-toned photo of a mansion and slave quarters, in Medford, Massachusetts.


Kyera Singleton, PhD candidate in American culture, University of Michigan, and executive director, Royall House and Slave Quarters

Manisha Sinha, James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History, University of Connecticut

John Stauffer, Sumner R. and Marshall S. Kates Professor of English and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University


Tiya Miles, Radcliffe Alumnae Professor, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and professor of history, Harvard University

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