Harvard acknowledged that slavery was 'integral' to its history in a new report that also said the university conducted disturbing eugenics experiments and 'race science'

Harvard acknowledged that slavery was 'integral' to its history in a new report that also said the university conducted disturbing eugenics experiments and 'race science'
A view of Harvard Yard on the campus of Harvard University on July 08, 2020 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
  • A report finds that Harvard University propelled "race science" and eugenics.
  • The university will move forward with recommendations to make up for its history with slavery.

Harvard University's leaders advanced "race theory" and eugenics during the 19th and 20th centuries, according to a report conducted and released by the university detailing the institution's involvement with slavery.

The 134-page report, published on Tuesday, was conducted started in 2019 by the faculty Committee on Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery chaired by Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean of Harvard Radcliffe Institute and the Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History.

The report focused on Harvard University's involvement in slavery and, after the abolishment of slavery, the university's "abusive" research and experiments in eugenics and "race science."

The report, titled "Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery," found that by 1850, "Harvard Medical School had become a focal point of scientific theories and practices rooted in racial hierarchy, racial exclusion, and discrimination at the University."

During the 19th and 20th centuries, several presidents and professors at the Ivy League university "promoted 'race science' and eugenics and conducted abusive 'research,' including the photographing of enslaved and subjugated human beings," the report finds, adding that the documents and products of these findings remain on campus.


The university took an active role in propelling eugenic theories and research — including photographing people that were enslaved — that were used to back up racial discrimination, segregation, and white supremacy.

"Legacies of slavery persisted at Harvard, and throughout American society, after the Constitution and laws officially proscribed human bondage. Such legacies, including racial segregation, exclusion, and discrimination, were a part of campus life well into the 20th century," the report adds.

Additionally, the report details how the university profited from slavery — including the owning of slaves and receiving donations from people who made their money from slave industries.

It lists the names of 79 people of Indigenous and African descent who were enslaved at the university — working and living on its campus — between its founding in 1636, and the ban on slavery in Massachusetts in 1783.

Remains of the bodies of thousands of Indigenous people and at least 15 Black people are still on campus in museum collections. The university's president created a steering committee to respond to the discovery.


It recommends that Harvard should establish a memorial in honor of the enslaved individuals and that the university engage "with these descendants through dialogue, programming, information sharing, relationship building, and educational support."

The University has established an implementation committee that will be chaired by Martha Minow, the 300th Anniversary University Professor and former dean of Harvard Law School, the school's president said in a statement. A total of $100 million will be allotted towards addressing the recommendations in the report.

"Many of you will find it disturbing and even shocking," Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow said in a statement Tuesday. "Many of you may also be disappointed in learning painful truths about the history of an institution that you have come to know, respect, and even love."