Harvard still holds remains of 19 people who were likely enslaved and thousands of Native Americans, leaked report says

Mildred Europa Taylor June 06, 2022
In this Dec. 13, 2018, file photo, a gate opens to the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Mass. Photo: AP

Harvard University is still holding the remains of at least 19 people who were likely enslaved and nearly 7,000 Native Americans, according to the student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson.

The newspaper cited a leaked draft report from the school’s committee which is studying how Harvard should treat human remains in its museum collections. Many of the remains are being held at the Peabody Museum of Ethnology and Archaeology, the report by the newspaper said.

It said the remains have been in Harvard’s possession despite a 1990 federal law requiring institutions that accept federal funding to return Native American remains and cultural items to their original owners’ descendants. 

Harvard professor Evelynn M. Hammonds, who headed the committee behind the report, wrote that “it is deeply frustrating that the Harvard Crimson chose to release an initial and incomplete draft report of the Committee on Human Remains.”

“Releasing this draft is irresponsible reporting and robs the Committee of finalizing its report and associated actions, and puts in jeopardy the thoughtful engagement of the Harvard community in its release,” Hammonds said in a statement cited by the Crimson. “Further, it shares an outdated version with the Harvard community that does not reflect weeks of additional information and Committee work.”

Two months ago, Harvard announced a $100 million fund to redress its ties to slavery following a report that said that the university’s leaders enslaved people in the 17th and 18th centuries. The report was written by a committee appointed in 2019 by Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow. Released in April, the report found that slavery thrived in New England from its beginnings, including at Harvard University. The report said that the university faculty, leaders and staff enslaved over 70 people between its founding in 1636 and 1783. Many of those enslaved lived and worked on campus. 

According to the report, Harvard “had extensive financial ties to and profited from slavery in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries,” adding that “some donors had ties to slave trade through plantations in the South and Caribbean islands and through textile manufacturing operations in the North that were supplied by cotton grown by enslaved people.”

Some of the money donated to Harvard by private individuals in the 19th century were from men who had built wealth from slavery. The report said these donors helped the university build a national reputation, hire faculty, support students, grow its collections, expand its physical footprint and develop its infrastructure.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 7, 2022


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