McGill University is the Fourth Canadian School to Join USS.

Already represented by colleges and universities in five countries, the Universities Studying Slavery (USS) consortium is thrilled to announce that McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, is joining the team. McGill represents the fourth Canadian school—following Dalhousie University, University of King’s College, and the University of New Brunswick—to sign up.

McGill University was founded in 1821. It is named for James McGill (who had been a student at the University of Glasgow), who became a successful merchant after immigrating from Scotland to the colonies. While it is known that James McGill owned enslaved people of Black and Indigenous descent, the nature and scope of McGill’s engagement with the transatlantic slave trade requires further study. McGill University has committed to undertaking this work as it approaches its bicentenary in 2021.

To this end, Provost and Vice Principal Christopher Manfredi has appointed two Postdoctoral Research Scholars on Institutional Histories, Slavery, and Colonialism. McGill has also just released its Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism, in which McGill commits to:

Undertake an expanded McGill history project that will investigate McGill’s connections with the transatlantic slave trade. The project will engage a research team led by one or more historians with the requisite expertise to carry out this work. While ensuring that the project team enjoys the full measure of independence and academic freedom in conducting its work, methods of engagement with the Black communities of McGill and Montreal will be established to ensure that the contemporary meaning of the history is well understood. The project will result in a public report setting out historic findings, which will inform further work to address anti-Black racism.

McGill will actively participate in the USS consortium, confident that this will enrich its efforts to study the school’s past. McGill University also hopes to contribute to similar projects taken up within other institutions in North America and abroad. Please welcome McGill University to this growing movement!