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Harvard Legacy of Slavery Initiative Launches Grant for Projects Co-Led by University Affiliates, Nonprofits

A plaque at Wadsworth House honors Titus, Venus, Juba, and Bilhah, four enslaved people who lived and worked for two Harvard University presidents who resided there.
A plaque at Wadsworth House honors Titus, Venus, Juba, and Bilhah, four enslaved people who lived and worked for two Harvard University presidents who resided there. By Julian J. Giordano
By Tess C. Wayland, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery Initiative will offer annual funding up to $350,000 for long-term projects and $25,000 for smaller projects that address systemic inequities for descendants of slavery, the University announced Monday.

The program, called Request for Proposals, will give grants for projects co-led by Harvard affiliates, excluding alumni and University-affiliated hospital staff, and nonprofits. Projects would be preferably based in Cambridge and Boston. Funding for the inaugural class will begin in July 2024.

Harvard’s landmark 2022 report on its historical ties to slavery recommends both “monetary and nonmonetary” reparative efforts. The program is the first grant program by the Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery initiative.

“We want to fund projects that lead to innovative solutions that address gaps in education, the racial wealth gap, health disparities, and criminal justice reform. These issues disproportionately impact descendant communities,” said Roeshana Moore-Evans, the executive director of the Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery initiative, in an interview with the Harvard Gazette, a University-run publication.

Harvard Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 expressed excitement about the initiative in a Thursday interview. He said the grant program will engage with goals and partners that aren’t typical for a research university.

“It will be designed to ensure that the people who the entire initiative is intended to help will have a voice in how these funds will be used and will help develop activities that we hope will have great impact,” Garber said.

Vice Provost for Special Project Sara N. Bleich echoed Garber’s hope for the project’s impact.

“We hope to establish long-lasting partnerships that will achieve meaningful, transformative impact, and to solve real-world challenges impacting our local communities,” Bleich said to the Gazette.

“This is not an academic exercise. We’re looking to drive real changes for real people in the real world,” she added.

Projects will be evaluated in two stages. First, proposals will be approved by Harvard affiliates and locals from Cambridge and Boston, yet to be assembled. Second, the selected projects will submit full proposals to a committee that includes Kenneth E. Reeves ’72, former mayor of Cambridge; Ruth J. Simmons, Harvard’s senior adviser to the president for HBCU engagement; and Martha L. Minow, the former chair of the Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery Implementation Committee.

The application, which opened Monday, lists two types of proposals: short-term “seed projects,” with a budget of up to $25,000 over one year, and long-term “impact projects,” with a budget of up to $350,000 over two years. Proposals are due in January 2024, and awardees will be announced by April 2024.

—Staff writer Tess C. Wayland can be reached at tess.wayland@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @tess_wayland.

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