Higher Education

How slavery helped build many U.S. colleges and universities

Dozens of American colleges and universities are investigating their historic ties to the slave trade and debating how to atone.

Profits from slavery and related industries helped fund some of the most prestigious schools in the Northeast, including Harvard, Columbia, Princeton and Yale. And in many southern states — including the University of Virginia — enslaved people built college campuses and served faculty and students.

Today a growing movement to confront this legacy is being spurred by student protests and campus leaders reacting to high-profile racial conflict that has recently beset the nation. The result has been historical investigations, university commissions, conferences, memorials, and, at Georgetown, a handful of the descendants of enslaved people arriving as first-year students at the institution that owned their ancestors.

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