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Some colleges atoning for slavery by offering their own reparations

The University of Virginia’s 2018 report on the institution’s ownership and treatment of enslaved people centuries ago tells the tale of a 10-year-old black girl who was savagely beaten unconscious in 1856 by Noble Noland, a student who deemed her reply to his questions too insolent.. 

The attack’s prominence in the report is part of an ongoing effort to account for — and atone for — the ways the university encouraged, enabled and profited from slavery.

Violence toward blacks was commonplace at many other U.S. institutions of higher learning in the 19th century, when slavery was baked into the crust of society. Enslaved workers endured beatings, rapes and other inhumane treatment while erecting buildings on campus, providing meals, cleaning rooms and otherwise helping these universities and its students ascend to greatness. 

In recent years, Virginia, Harvard and other schools have acknowledged how they used the labor of enslaved blacks, accepted thousands in contributions from plantation owners and upheld the racist systems that falsely validated the mythology of white supremacy and black inferiority.  

Servants quarters, mentioned in the $510 bill, stands on the grounds of the Virginia Theological Seminary in an undated picture.

In 2009, the College of William & Mary, a public university in Virginia, established The Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation which includes symposiums, courses and research into the college’s link to slavery. In 2017, Rutgers University in New Jersey renamed buildings on campus after prominent African Americans including Sojourner Truth, who was once enslaved by the family of a Rutgers president. Following its 2018 report, Virginia founded the Universities Studying Slavery consortium of about 40 schools that share resources while researching their own pasts.  

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