Yale University Joins Universities Studying Slavery!

Fall 2020 has been quite a busy stretch for Universities Studying Slavery, with seven schools launching programs and joining the consortium in four months. Today, Yale University joins Brown University, Harvard University, and Columbia University as Ivy League representatives with ambitious programs.

In fall 2020, President Peter Salovey announced a new research effort focused on exploring the history of slavery at Yale. The Yale and Slavery Working Group, chaired by David Blight, Sterling Professor of History and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, is “investigat[ing] Yale’s historic entanglements and associations with slavery, the slave trade, and abolition,” according to its charge. The working group includes faculty members from across a range of disciplines and departments and two community members. Yale undergraduate, graduate, and law students are serving as research assistants.

The group’s charge is intentionally broad, presenting a wide field for research into Yale’s history. The findings will contribute to a growing body of scholarship on the significance of enslaved laborers, the institution of slavery, and wealth generated by enslaved labor to American institutions of higher education.

“Yale’s motto is lux et veritas, light and truth,” Salovey said. “We must shed light on our own history and better understand the ways slavery and abolition have shaped and influenced our university. This complex history is still part of Yale today.” By joining the Universities Studying Slavery consortium, Yale hopes to contribute to a growing body of scholarship on slavery and higher education. “We know many other colleges and universities are engaged in similar efforts to understand and remember their institutions’ ties to slavery,” Professor Blight said. “We look forward to learning from other members of the consortium and being part of this important work.”

As the project draws to a close, the Yale and Slavery Working Group will share its findings widely for discussion, remembrance, and learning. Public engagements may include a conference. The project aims to conclude, with recommendations and a report, by the end of the calendar year 2021 or beginning of 2022.

We hope everyone enjoys an uneventful end to 2020–we look forward in the coming year to hearing about findings from Yale University and dozens of other schools doing this work. We share below the Yale University working group’s membership.

Yale & Slavery Working Group members

David W. Blight, Chair Faculty & GLC Director History; African American Studies;
Gilder Lehrman Center

Ned Blackhawk Faculty History; American Studies
Crystal Feimster Faculty African American Studies; History;
American Studies
James Forman Faculty Yale Law School
Jay Gitlin Faculty History
Gerald Jaynes Faculty Economics; African American Studies
Willie James Jennings Faculty Divinity School
Michael Lotstein University archivist Manuscripts & Archives
Michael Morand Communications Director Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Risë Nelson Director Afro-American Cultural Center; Asst. Dean,
Yale College
Stephen Pitti Faculty History, American Studies; Director, Center
for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration
Carolyn Roberts Faculty History of Science & History of Medicine;
African American Studies
Edward Rugemer Faculty History; African American Studies
Judy Schiff Chief Research Archivist Manuscripts & Archives
John Stuart Gordon Benjamin Attmore Hewitt Yale University Art Gallery
Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts

Joy Burns Yale staff/ Community Amistad Committee; Physician Assistant,
Yale School of Medicine
Charles Warner Community Amistad Committee; historian, Dixwell
Ave. Congregational United Church of Christ

Ambre Dromgoole Graduate student Religious Studies, African American Studies
Kate Kushner Undergraduate Yale College, 2021
Chaka Laguerre Graduate student Yale Law School
Ben Parten Graduate student History
Matthew Quallen Graduate student Yale Law School
Teanu Reid Graduate student History, African American Studies

Melissa McGrath Administrative Assistant
Lisa Monroe Project Manager, “Legacies of American Slavery”
Thomas Thurston Director of Education
Daniel Vieira Media Project Manager
Michelle Zacks Associate Director