The Atlantic

How Money From Slave Trading Helped Start Columbia University

The historian Eric Foner describes how profits from the slave trade helped fund the school formerly named King’s College.
Source: Mike Segar / Reuters

The revelation last year that Georgetown University had, in 1838, sold 272 slaves owned by the school in order to pay off debts reignited a conversation about how America and its old, elite institutions of higher education have continually failed to reckon with their ties to slavery.

In recent years, the calls for a more honest discussion about the legacy of slavery and the honoring of known slaveholders and traders at some of the nation’s most revered schools have intensified. But in order to even begin to talk about this linkage—and how to cope with it—schools must delve into their histories and provide a greater level of transparency about their once-close relationships with human bondage. A new research project at Columbia University

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