Harvard University is setting aside $100 million for an endowment fund and other measures to
close the educational, social and economic gaps that are supposed legacies of slavery and racism, according to an email the
university’s president sent to all students, faculty and staff on Tuesday, 26 April 2022.
The email from Harvard President Lawrence Bacow included a link to a 100-page report by his
university’s 14-member Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery.
The report laid out a history of slaves toiling on the campus and of the university benefiting from
the slave trade and industries linked to slavery which was outlawed in Massachusetts in 1783 – 147 years after Harvard’s
It is to be noted that Harvard has had notable figures among abolitionists and in the civil rights
The report’s authors recommended offering descendants of people enslaved at Harvard educational and
other support so they “can recover their histories, tell their stories, and pursue empowering knowledge.” In such a manner,
all people associated with Harvard University can be made to feel good and be assured that they will have the undying gratitude
of all Blacks in America.
Other recommendations included the Ivy League school funding summer programs to bring students and
faculty from long underfunded historically Black colleges and universities to Harvard, and to send Harvard students and faculty
to the institutions known as HBCUs, such as Howard University.
Here in Massachusetts, Slavery persisted through most of the eighteenth century, but was ended well
before the Civil War. Early on, individual enslaved people had successfully sued for freedom, and groups had petitioned the
colonial government for freedom. In 1783, in direct response to the new Massachusetts Constitution, the institution of slavery
was legally abolished.
What we now are witnessing is a mea culpa from Harvard University nearly 250 years after slavery ended
in the university’s home state. It is proposing to compensate descendants of former slaves for past “wrong doings”. These
“wrong doings” were, in fact, legal when they took place and were socially acceptable by many, if not most, people living in
Massachusetts at that time. In any event, Harvard is looking to compensate Black Americans who are some twenty generations
removed from the last slaves in the Bay State. Could anyone 20 generations later still be suffering from the effects
of Harvard’s crime against their very chronologically distant ancestor ?
It is fairly clear that Harvard University much more recently undertook legally questionable actions
that harmed a different group of Americans. In 1922, only 100 years ago and only 5 generations removed from today’s American
citizens, Harvard University President Abbott Lawrence Lowell had a problem: His school had too many Jews. At least that’s
what he thought.
As the country’s Jewish population ballooned in the early 20th century, the Jewish proportion of
Harvard students also increased. In 1900, just 7 percent of the Ivy League school’s students were Jewish. By 1922, the figure
was 21.5 percent.
Lowell felt that some were of deficient character. And even if they weren’t, he feared they would
drive away potential White Anglo-Saxon Protestant students who would go on to be America’s political and economic elite - as
well as future donors to schools like Harvard.
“The summer hotel that is ruined by admitting Jews meets its fate, not because the Jews it admits are
of bad character, but because they drive away the Gentiles, and then after the Gentiles have left, they leave also,” he wrote
in a letter to a philosophy professor, as quoted in the book “The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at
Harvard, Yale and Princeton,” by Jerome Karabel.
In response to a letter from an alumnus bemoaning that Harvard was no longer a “white man’s” college,
Lowell wrote that he “had foreseen the peril of having too large a number of an alien race, and had tried to prevent it.”
Lowell eventually succeeded in changing the admissions standards at his Boston-area university to
limit the number of Jews. According to Karabel, instead of admitting students solely based on academic achievement, the school
began judging their surnames and photographs to determine if they were Jewish. It began classifying students as “J1,” “J2” or
“J3” - conclusively Jewish, probably Jewish or maybe Jewish, respectively. It evaluated their
“character” as well - a new standard by which Harvard capped the proportion of Jewish students at 15 percent. The
quota lasted until the 1960s. Note that the practice stopped quite recently, just 60 years or 3 generations
Some six decades after Harvard supposedly ended its policy of limiting Jewish enrollment, Harvard
University’s Jewish population has not recovered. According to Hillel International, it now stands at 11 percent - comfortably
below Lowell’s quota.
Harvard University has also acted unfairly toward Asian-Americans. Students for Fair Admissions,
sued Harvard in 2014 claiming Asian-Americans, who have the highest academic records, unfairly receive the lowest admission
rate at the elite school. Harvard University's dean of admissions has admitted that the Ivy League school applies different SAT
score standards to prospective students based on factors such as race. The dean testified that African-Americans, Native
Americans, and Hispanic high schoolers with mid-range SAT scores out of a possible 1600 combined math and verbal, are sent
recruitment letters with a score as low as 1100, whereas Asian-Americans need to score at least 250 points higher – 1350 for
women and 1380 for men. It was charged that Harvard will admit white or unknown students with SAT scores as low as 1310 from
states with more sparse populations, but not Asian-American students in the same area with similar scores.
“Harvard has engaged in, and continues to engage in, intentional discrimination against
Asian-Americans,” an attorney stated, adding that the school also gives Asian-Americans significantly lower ratings for certain
personality qualities such as courage and likeability, compared to other groups.
If Harvard’s offense against Blacks some 250 years ago is now worth $100 million in compensation, what
is Harvard’s offense against Jews committed as recently as 1960 worth? Some Jews who were denied admission to Harvard are still
alive as are many of their first and second generation descendants. How many first through tenth generation offspring of
Black Massachusetts slaves are alive? How many first through tenth generation offspring of Black Harvard University
slaves are alive? Just who are the current impacted descendants of those Black slaves and to what degree have they been
adversely impacted by Harvard University’s actions some 250 to 300 years ago?
For that matter, should anyone be responsible for what their predecessors did some three centuries
ago? Should anyone be responsible for what their predecessors did when what is illegal or immoral today may have been legal
and moral at that time? When do we have to stop claiming that our failures or inabilities are the result of how our ancestors
were treated two centuries ago? Maybe it’s time to focus on correcting today’s injustices instead of trying to right a wrong
committed centuries ago! Maybe it’s time to focus on correcting today’s injustices instead of trying to right a wrong that
wasn’t viewed as a wrong when it was perpetrated centuries ago!
Instead of fixating on past supposed sins that were committed some two to three hundred years in the
past, Harvard University – and many others – might want to focus on what good they can accomplish in the here and now. Let
Harvard use their $100 million to help today’s needy and deserving students pay for their college education. Let this be done
for all, not just the descendants of Black slaves. Harvard should do this to help out America’s best and brightest who are in
need of financial aid – not just those who happen to have a Black slave in their family’s blood line. Whether one is Black,
a Jew or an Asian-American should not be a determinant of financial aid.
Harvard University take note: Today, financial aid to college students should be color
blind. Race, ethnicity, religion, etc. should not be a consideration.
Above and beyond the issue of Harvard University setting up a fund to “compensate” some of today’s
Black Americans for “harm” to very distant relatives some two or three centuries earlier, Harvard - and the rest of America -
should be asking the more important question: Should “reparations” be paid for the past sins of slavery in America? Let’s
consider the issues.
Is it even possible in any meaningful sense to make amends for the historical harms suffered by
long-dead slaves by making payments to their ancestors? Would reparations promote the goal of achieving racial justice or
would they be counter-productive in terms of racial healing?
Human slavery has existed in various forms since time immemorial. It was practiced in one form or
another by primitive pre-historic tribes and by subsequent ancient civilizations. Slavery was a universal norm throughout the
world at the time of the American Revolution. The practice of human bondage still continues to this day in some parts of the
We should not judge the economic and moral decisions of our ancestors based on current standards.
They must be viewed in the context of the era in which they lived.
Prior to the American Civil War, slavery was legal in the American South and in most of the rest of
the world. Two hundred years later, slavery is now universally condemned, but it still exists in parts of Africa and
Asia. As a matter of law, people are not punished for activities that were legal at the time they
Realistically, there is nothing that we can do now to atone for the sins of those who came before us.
We cannot compensate the victims of slavery who are long dead and we cannot punish the slave holders who lie in their
Should the “sins of the fathers” be visited upon their sons and grandsons? Is there some type of
“blood guilt” or hereditary curse that extends down the generations? If so, how long does the curse last? Should the Egyptians
pay reparations for the enslavement of the Hebrews? Common sense and plain decency tell us the answer to these questions is
If there was a time to “pay reparations” it was in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War when the
actual victims of slavery were still alive and in need of help. Heroic efforts were attempted to help improve the lives of
millions of freed slaves. Despite some initial progress, most of these efforts proved ultimately unsuccessful.
Just as millions of northern abolitionists helped to free the slaves in the 1860’s, millions of
whites and blacks joined together to erase the last vestiges of legal discrimination with the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960’s.
Throughout the United States, people of all colors have enjoyed equal rights under the law for more than half a century. Today,
can forced transfer payments – reparations - “cure” past historical injustices?
Tommy dropped out of school, got into drugs, committed crimes and served time in prison. He is
illiterate and effectively unemployable. In contrast, Tammy stayed in school, got married and stayed married. She obeys the
law and works a full-time job to help provide for her family. Is Tammy more prosperous than Tommy because of her race, or is
she richer because she made better “life choices”?
Should Tommy be relieved of any personal responsibility for the consequences of his actions that have
contributed to his relative poverty? What if Tommy is white? Does he still benefit from “white privilege” and thus does he
still need to pay for the sins of other white people who came before him? What if Tammy is black and she was able to succeed
despite the “legacy of discrimination”? Do individual decisions have any impact at all on relative economic prosperity or is
it simply a matter of skin color?
Is there a “statute of limitations” on historical crimes? The last of the slave-holders died long ago,
as did their African American slaves, so how can they be compensated?
The fundamental question is whether today’s Whites (actually all Americans, White or Black) should be
compelled to pay reparations to today’s Blacks based upon historical injustices, regardless of the current Blacks’ individual
merits, achievements, morality or needs.
Consider the fact that the United States Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to equal
protection under the law and effectively prohibits racial discrimination. Any system of reparations to Blacks involves blatant
racial discrimination. How can such payments based solely on race pass constitutional muster? If one racial group receives a
benefit based on the color of their skin, and other groups are likewise deprived of these benefits because of their skin color,
does this not represent a fundamental violation of equal protection?
The proposed payment of reparations is unlikely to assuage feelings of “white guilt”, but it may well
inflame racial bigotry, as non-Blacks view the reparations as unnecessary and unfairly discriminatory toward them. Maybe the
proposed payment of reparations will do both!
It’s time that America once and for all put an end to the idiotic proposal to compensate twenty-first
century Blacks for the slavery of eighteenth century Blacks. Reparation advocates only make arguments based on emotional appeal
rather than on logic and reason. In reality there is no reasonable way to actually make reparations. Over the
past two hundred and fifty years there have been numerous immigrants who have entered the U.S. who were not a part of enslaving
blacks, and there were also blacks that owned black slaves during the slave era. How would the government be able to have the
resources to determine every single person who had slaveowner ancestors as well as ancestors who were slaves? What about those
of mixed race? It’s impossible.
Even during the era of slavery, most white people owned no slaves. Are their descendants supposed to
pay for the descendants of those who did?” It would be irresponsible to punish not only all white people but all of American
society for the blight of slavery.
Truth be told, slavery reparations will not help the black community. Note that, between 1940 and 1960
the poverty rate among blacks fell by half, before any of the major federal civil rights legislation or the vast expansion of
the welfare state under President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs.
Could it be that between 1940 and 1960, part of the reason was that the black males’ number of years
of schooling doubled? Is it surprising that doubling one’s education raises one’s income? Back then, many blacks raised
themselves out of poverty. But there were those who robbed Blacks of this achievement and the respect it deserved - in the eyes
of Blacks and whites alike - by making it seem like it was the result of a concession from the government.
From 1960 on what changed was that the expansion of the welfare state that hastened the breakup of the
Black family, which has clearly been linked to higher poverty rates. Reparations are simply another welfare program,
which will not solve the problem - it will only exacerbate it. It would be better by far for African Americans to look
to themselves to improve their standing in the life.
Like all other government handouts, if slavery reparations were actually paid, it would never be
enough for the race hustlers. The race hustling industry is only interested in promoting themselves and stirring up racial
discord in order to keep the money flowing. There would never be enough paid out in
In the case of Harvard University, Jews may well ask, “Where are my reparations from Harvard for its
much more recent immoral/illegal actions?” Asian Americans, Hispanics and other minorities may want to ask the same
question of Harvard.
- Harvard sets up $100 million endowment fund for slavery reparations, Ben Sales, New York Post,
26 April 2022.
- The Legal End of Slavery in Massachusetts, Massachusetts Historical Society,
Accessed 27 April 2022.
- Harvard once capped the number of Jews. Is it doing the same thing to Asian Americans now?,
Ben Sales, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 17 October 2018.
- Harvard discrimination trial reveals Ivy League school's different SAT standards for Asian-Americans,
Caleb Parke, https://rhetoricalq.wordpress.com/, 18 October 2018.
- Should “Reparations” be paid for the past sins of slavery in America?, CICERO2000,
https://rhetoricalq.wordpress.com/, 26 March 2019.
- 5 Reasons Slavery Reparations Are An Idiotic Idea, Aaron Bandler, DAILYWIRE,
23 February 2016.