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Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery Initiative Plans Events for the Spring

Started at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Presidential Initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery explores Harvard's historic ties with slavery.
Started at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Presidential Initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery explores Harvard's historic ties with slavery. By Soumyaa Mazumder
By Sara Dahiya, Crimson Staff Writer

The Presidential Initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, launched by University President Lawrence S. Bacow in November 2019, plans to organize a series of events in the coming months before presenting its findings in April.

Started at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the initiative explores Harvard’s historic ties with slavery. Kicking off on March 24, the committee's slate of events will include university-wide panels and virtual tours, leading up to an April 29 conference presenting the group’s work.

The committee’s final report and recommendations will focus on the lasting impact of slavery on the school’s curriculum, campus life, medical education, and museum collections. Committee members have also examined Harvard’s links to sugar plantations in Antigua and other Caribbean nations.

“All of the public programming this spring is designed to engage with findings in the historical report, which will be published in late spring,” an email from the Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery team reads.

In March, guest speaker Michael W. Twitty will chronicle his work as a history interpreter and culinary historian, presenting his scholarship of African American foodways and legacies.

A panel in April, hosted in collaboration with the Eileen Southern Initiative, will focus on the connection between American choral music and race. A performance by the Aeolians — a choir from Oakwood University founded by Eva B. Dykes, the first Black female Ph.D. graduate from Radcliffe College — in Sanders Theater will follow.

Former Dean of Harvard Law School Martha L. Minow and HGSE professor Meira Levinson led the initiative’s subcommittee on curriculum, which created a film on the views of students and scholars on the University’s history and ties to slavery. Radcliffe Institute will air the film this spring.

Other scheduled offerings include a virtual walking tour showcasing Harvard’s history, a student art exhibition, and a ceremony of “remembrance and healing.” The committee wrote in an email that it hopes public health considerations allow for the gatherings to occur in-person, but it plans to make live streaming and recordings of the events available.

“The April 29 conference and indeed all of our events this semester will engage in one way or another with the broad question: What must we now do, and how can we ensure that the revelation of this history can inspire renewed commitment to institutional reform, to community engagement, and to our highest aspirations as a community of learning?” the team wrote in an email.

—Staff writer Sara Dahiya can be reached at sara.dahiya@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @Sara_castically.

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