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Harvard Radcliffe Institute has shifted to primarily virtual operations and continues to monitor the coronavirus pandemic. See Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information and Updates.

Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery Student Grant Program

The Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery Student Grant Program provides $1,500 stipends per project to support the research and creative work of Harvard undergraduate and graduate students on the topic of Harvard and the legacy of slavery, broadly defined. 

Projects may (but need not) be connected to courses, and we welcome a wide range of submissions including works of art, multimedia projects, and other creative endeavors as well as traditional research undertakings. These grants are meant to encourage engagement with the initiative from a wide range of perspectives and to examine critical topics including, but are not limited to:  

  • Harvard, legacies of slavery, campus life, and the Boston-Cambridge community; 
  • legacies of slavery and the sciences at Harvard;  
  • legacies of slavery in Harvard museums and archives;  
  • and Harvard and legacies of slavery in the context of Caribbean nations.

Students may submit applications as individuals or groups; however, we can only accept one application per project.

Grant recipients will join a virtual student cohort and receive mentoring and support from Radcliffe staff and faculty members and from each other. 

How to Apply

Proposals must include a concept note of no more than 750 words outlining:

  • the project’s title and purpose;
  • the work it entails and anticipated outcome(s);
  • and the value it would add to understanding and reckoning with the legacy of slavery at Harvard. 

Funds cannot be used for travel or travel-related expenses, in accordance with University guidelines

Submit applications for the Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery Student Grant Program here. Applications are due by 2 PM ET on Friday, January 29, 2021. We will convey funding decisions by March 2021.  

Program Details

Any currently enrolled undergraduate or graduate student at Harvard is eligible to apply. Students on leaves of absence are not eligible.

All Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery projects must be completed by the end of May 2021. 

Grant recipients will be required to submit a brief final report on their project. They will also be asked whether they would be willing to present their project (at a public event, to the selection committee, or in another setting, as appropriate).

Funds cannot be used for travel or travel-related expenses, in accordance with University guidelines

Funds will be awarded directly to students and may not be transferred to other departments or organizations.

Yes, you may apply to multiple funding programs at the same time. However, a single project can only be funded by one grant program at a time.

Students are responsible for obtaining appropriate approval for Human Subjects Research, if applicable. We encourage interested students to visit Harvard’s Committee on the Use of Human Subjects website for detailed information. Undergraduates may also refer to the Undergraduate Research Training Program (URTP), a comprehensive platform to assist and create better prepared undergraduate researchers.

Past Student Projects

Clara Amenyo (GSD), Elifmina Mizrahi (GSD), and Thandi Nyambose (GSD) will be illuminating the historical connections between the textile cities of the Merrimack Valley, Harvard University, and the “Cotton Kingdom” of the South. The Lowell and Lawrence families of Boston, who had extensive ties to Harvard, helped establish the 19th century industrial cities that bear their names. Using archival source documents, this project seeks to identify buildings and other physical spaces on the Harvard campus funded by wealth that can be traced to the textile mills of Lowell and Lawrence and, through them, back to Southern cotton plantations.

Daniel Barcia (HLS, HBS) will build on his thesis, a winner of a Harvard College Hoopes Prize in 2015, to shed light on Harvard’s historical relationship with slavery. As an undergraduate history student, Barcia produced a detailed narrative of an 1835 uprising of enslaved people in Florida. His current research seeks to shed light on the individual actors involved in the conflict. Barcia will focus specifically on the Harvard graduate Benjamin A. Putnam (AB 1823, AM 1852)—the namesake of a county in northeast Florida—and his role as a local slaveholder and active military commander in repressing the 1835 rebellion.

Darien Carr (GSD) and Avi Robinson (GSD) will research and map the sales of bricks produced by prisoners leased to companies such as the Atlanta-based Chattahoochee Brick Company to identify how the institution of Harvard has benefited from this kind of forced labor. Prisoners working for the Chattahoochee Brick Company produced almost 33 million bricks between the years of 1906 and 1907—bricks that are likely still in use today. This project aims to investigate the relationships among convict labor, the establishment of institutions, and the beginnings of the prison industrial complex. Furthermore, it will be used to generate a series of speculative concepts to memorialize the use of these bricks on campus.

Alexandre Chaumette (COL) will investigate Harvard’s role in creating and perpetuating racial disparities in asthma, examining the overt and covert ways in which research and teaching at Harvard may have contributed to disproportionate disease burdens on communities of color. Motivated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the modern landscape of racial health disparities in the United States, this work seeks to contextualize the institutional influence of modern disease distributions.

Isabel Cole (COL) will investigate the role of slavery in the development of various economic tools utilized in undergraduate economics courses at Harvard. The project focuses on identifying modern economic concepts, such as labor productivity growth, with origins in the labor management of 19th-century cotton plantations and the credit structure of the interstate slave trade. Focusing on Harvard as a case study, Cole will examine the prevalence of these historically significant tools and themes in the economics curriculum and generate a set of recommendations for addressing and contextualizing their ties to slavery. By understanding the role of slavery in the development of contemporary educational material, Cole hopes to both acknowledge its impact on the modern American economy and move toward providing a more historically and ethically informed study of economics at Harvard.

Jarrett Drake (GSAS) will examine Harvard’s ties to the modern prison industry through the lens of the foundational relationship between enslavement and incarceration. His research will produce a mixed artistic and academic project, “Crimson Cash,” that will map the ways in which Harvard alumni, donors, and other affiliates are connected to the leadership structures of the largest companies in the prison-industrial complex.

Winona Guo (COL) will research the role of prison divestment in facing Harvard University’s legacy of slavery. More broadly, she is interested in the question of how to institutionalize racial equity in higher education.

Sarah Mallory (GSAS) will coordinate a conference that examines the role of museums in interpreting the legacy of the Dutch transatlantic slave trade. Alongside colleagues from the Harvard Art Museums, the Harvard Department of History of Art and Architecture, and the Center for Netherlandish Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, she will explore how art museums can engage with the concepts of reparation, apology, reconciliation, and the future. With a special focus on the connection between the Dutch slave trade and the Harvard Art Museums’ collections, the conference will bring together scholars and museum professionals from the Netherlands and the United States to consider how museum collections are themselves a legacy of the slave trade.

Mary McNeil (GSAS) seeks to expand understandings of the University’s connections to the slave trade by tracing its financial links to the enslavement of American Indians. Her project will examine Harvard’s connection to the colonial-era Native American slave trade between Massachusetts and the West Indies. Specifically, it seeks to determine the extent to which the financial contributions made to the University by John Hull and his daughter and son-in-law, Hannah and Samuel Sewall, were derived from the dispossession of Native lands and the sale of Wampanoag, Massachusett, Narragansett, Pequot, and Nipmuc people to the West Indies in the late 17th century.

Orlee Marini-Rapoport (COL) seeks to build on past research conducted by Mather House administrators and students and to provide additional context on the 1970 decision to name the House after Increase Mather, who was a slaveowner, in light of more recent controversy. Her project will explore what goes into a name, how Harvard comes to such decisions, and to offer recommendations for how, in future naming decisions, the University can both honor its past and accurately represent history.

Eve O'Connor (GSAS) will study how slavery and capitalism conditioned Harvard’s expansion into a research university in the late 19th century, focusing on Charles William Eliot’s 40-year presidency. Drawing from Eliot’s work on labor, science, engineering, literature, and history, this research explores the intellectual and curricular legacies of slavery at the University.

Suzannah Omonuk (HDS) will interrogate the ways history and art have centralized figures such as white slave masters and abolitionists, while reducing the enslaved to mere footnotes. In this project, she will creatively tell the story of Venus, an enslaved individual owned by Benjamin Wadsworth, Harvard’s eighth president, who led the University from 1725 to 1737. This spoken word poem, informed by research into the lives of enslaved individuals in New England in the 17th and 18th centuries, will semi-fictionally and imaginatively give Venus a voice and a face.

Divya Saraf (GSD) will investigate historical anthropological photography held in the Harvard Art Museums and Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology archives, focusing on images of women. She will compare the Zealy daguerreotypes of enslaved people, commissioned by Louis Agassiz, to portraits from colonial India and explore how we can challenge historical narratives and transform archives by employing the tools of feminist and other critical frameworks.

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