A new Harvard committee charged with addressing the legacy of slavery on campus will be led by Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin of the Radcliffe Institute, President Lawrence S. Bacow announced today. Composed of faculty members from across schools and disciplines, the committee will expand on efforts initiated by former President Drew Faust and build on the momentum created by the 2017 Radcliffe conference “Universities and Slavery: Bound by History.”
“I am deeply honored to have been asked to lead this historic effort, both as a scholar and as dean of Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute,” said Dean Brown-Nagin, also the Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School and a history professor in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “Anchoring this new presidential initiative at Radcliffe—a cross-disciplinary laboratory of ideas that brings together scholars, students, and practitioners to explore issues that can only be fully understood by drawing on multiple perspectives—reflects the Institute’s unique role within the University. This endeavor also reflects our enduring commitment to grappling with inequality and promoting inclusion.”
The wide range of interests and expertise that enlivens Radcliffe also makes it “uniquely suited” to anchor Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, said President Bacow. The multiyear effort, to be funded by the Office of the President, “will have a strong grounding in rigorous research and critical perspectives that will inform not only our understanding of facts, but also how we might address the ramifications of what we learn,” he added.
Citing the reflection and conversation set in motion by “Universities and Slavery,” Dean Brown-Nagin echoed President Bacow’s commitment to a rigorous process of academic inquiry and fact-finding.
“As we move into this exciting new phase of work, we will harness the momentum of recent scholarly conversations about slavery’s legacy,” she said. "Progress requires an honest reckoning with our past, and it is in this spirit that we will examine Harvard’s relationship to the institution of slavery.”