The Dark, Secret Black History Of Colleges And Universities

students in graduation gowns and caps
Graciella Ye’Tsunami
June 13, 2024

#1: Exploitation

            Predominantly white universities like Brown and Harvard received substantial funding from families that made their fortunes in the slave trade and slavery. Other universities, like Georgetown, later offered free tuition to students because of the millions of dollars they had made by exploiting the labor of enslaved Africans. In 2016 Georgetown revealed one of its presidents sold 272 enslaved persons to save the university from bankruptcy.

#2: Academic Plantations 

     In some ways, being enslaved on a campus was comparable to working on a plantation. Enslaved Africans worked grueling hours cooking, cleaning, tending fires, drawing water, washing clothes, repairing buildings, and performing countless other tasks for faculty, staff, and, students.

#3: Abuse

             On numerous college campuses, enslaved persons were whipped, dismembered, branded, sexually assaulted, and sold away from their families. Some enslaved people were so severely traumatized that they took their own lives.

In 2024, no Black student should have to pay for college tuition, books, supplies, or room and board. This is the bare minimum for reparations.

Ironically “education” is what freed our ancestors. Many enslaved Africans taught themselves to read and write. Through this education, they questioned their enslavement, planned intricate escapes, and, once freed, used their knowledge to question the institution of slavery publicly. What’s the role of universities in a Black-liberated future? Education is important, but only if we make it accessible to all our communities.