Some black youth want their universities to keep their promises to help offspring slaves.
They say students and people who live in college communities need to hold universities accountable. And they say now is the time to do it.
Jason Carroll recently diploma from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Shepard Thomas graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, DC a year ago. They are descendants of enslaved people.
Carroll said, “There was a change in America. We are in a different place. Just a few years ago, it was controversial to say “Black Lives Matter”. “
Carroll and Thomas say that at least their universities have recently identified their links to the slave trade. But they think there is still a long way to go.
Thomas is a member of a group of students who came to Georgetown through a special program for descendants of slaves.
Historical links to slavery
In the 1800s, Georgetown rulers helped sell a group of 272 men, women, and children who were slaves on large farms in Maryland to other farms in Louisiana. The money from the sale helped the school pay off its debt.
About five years ago, Georgetown said it would give students like Thomas special admission requirements. He was among the first of this group to graduate.
Some of America’s oldest universities had links to slavery or received money from people who sold slaves.
Craig Steven Wilder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wrote a book on the link between higher education and slavery in 2013. At the time of the Georgetown announcement, he said: “Every university that has been established before the American Revolution has direct links with slavery. ”
Carroll was a student government leader while at Brown. Students there recently voted to ask the university to offer a program similar to the one offered by Georgetown. It would help the descendants of slaves “tangled with and / or distressed by the university and the Brown family.
In addition to Georgetown and Brown, people are looking at the University of Chicago, the University of Virginia, and the University of Georgia.
The city of Athens is home to the University of Georgia. The city is trying to offset a 1960s plan that took over the properties of 50 black families in order to build student housing. Campaigners and students say the university and the city need to pay attention to how the construction is hurting families.
Hattie Whitehead Thomas is now 72 years old. She grew up in the district of Athens taken over by the school.
She said the school “has to do more … and acknowledge what he did. The school said student housing helped black people because students “from all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds” lived there.
Earlier in 2021, the mayor of Athens signed a resolution that the city would take measures to compensate for the damage caused during the recapture of the land.
Efforts to catch up with the past
The University of Virginia, or UVA, in the city of Charlottesville, was established by the third US president, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was a slave owner.
Virginia lawmakers recently approved a program. It obliges the state’s five public colleges, including AVU, to identify descendants of slaves who worked on the land now occupied by schools and offer them benefits. One of the advantages could be the free university.
Cauline Yates says she is a descendant of one of Jefferson’s slaves. She said the university must “stand up and honor our ancestors.”
Brian Coy is a spokesperson for UVA. He said the school did not yet know what kind of offer it would make to descendants of slaves. But he said the AVU created a memorial that recognizes the work the slaves did for the school.
Caine Jordan is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. He said the students there are upset that the university seems unwilling to take full responsibility for how it has treated black people in the past.
The school has removed markers honoring Stephen Douglas, a United States Senator from the 1800s who profited from slave labor. But the school said Douglas had no connection with the university, which was founded after the senator’s death. The president of the University of Chicago is expected to make a statement underscoring the school’s commitment to racial equity.
“All rings hollow if you’re grounded in black pain and you’re not willing to admit it, ”Jordan said.
Thomas and Carroll want people to keep following the stories from Georgetown and Brown universities. Both schools say they will look for ways to spend money on community projects that would help descendants of slaves.
Thomas said observers should pay attention to how the money is spent. “The fear is that the university will use these funds for their own purposes. “
In Rhode Island, part of Brown University’s plan is to spend money to help local schools in Providence. However, Carroll notes that most of the local students are not black. “It’s not really a solution,” he said. “In a way, it’s even more insulting.”
Davarian Baldwin is Professor of American Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He said students and community members should keep the pressure on universities.
“(They) will do as little as possible,” he said.
I am Dan Friedell. And I am Jill Robbins.
Philip Marcelo wrote this story for the Associated Press. Dan Friedell adapted it to learn English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Do you think American colleges and universities are doing enough for the descendants of slaves? Tell us in the comments section and visit our Facebook page.
Words in this story
descending -NOT. someone who is related to a person or group of people who have lived in the past
diploma –V. to obtain a diploma certifying the official end of studies at a college or university
funds -NOT. (PL.) money
benefits -NOT. (PL.) money or something more provided by an employer or a government to a worker or citizen
acknowledge –V. to accept or not to deny the veracity of a statement or position
change -NOT. a change of position or way of thinking
controversial – adj. relating to or causing much discussion, disagreement or argument : likely to cause controversy
entangle –V. to involve (someone) in a confusing or difficult situation – generally used as (to be / to get) entangled
distress –V. cause pain or suffering to (someone or something)
hollow ring –Adj. describing a weak or empty statement
to go out with –V. do something without being held responsible