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Harvard Appoints Committee for Legacy of Slavery Memorial Project

Wadsworth House, located in Harvard Yard, is named after Benjamin Wadsworth, a former University president who enslaved two people.
Wadsworth House, located in Harvard Yard, is named after Benjamin Wadsworth, a former University president who enslaved two people. By Julian J. Giordano
By Jasmine Palma and Tess C. Wayland, Crimson Staff Writers

Thirteen Harvard affiliates will spearhead the University’s Legacy of Slavery memorial project, which is tasked with memorializing the enslaved people who played a formative role in shaping Harvard, the school announced Wednesday.

The committee is a product of the recommendations outlined in a landmark report released last April that revealed Harvard’s long-standing financial, intellectual, and social links to slavery, both past and present.

In addition to six other recommendations, the report advised that the University memorialize enslaved individuals through research and curricula.

“We must pursue not only truth, vital though that is, but also reconciliation,” the report reads. “Doing so requires a range of actions—visible and continuing—that address the harms of slavery and its legacies, many of which still reverberate today, affecting descendants of slavery in the community and indeed the nation.”

Led by co-chairs Tracy K. Smith ’94, professor of English and African and African American Studies, and Dan Byers, director of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, the committee will propose both a memorial location and design to University leadership.

“To honor the enslaved is to bear witness to tremendous grief and emotional freight and also to transmit immense awe for a people’s resilience and continuance even in the face of unthinkable odds,” Smith said in a statement to the Harvard Gazette.

Brenda D. Tindal, the newly-appointed chief campus curator of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, will also serve on the committee.

Though the University did not set a timeline for the committee’s final recommendations, the group plans to consult Harvard affiliates, descendants, and Cambridge and Boston residents through the process.

“We will seek community input to frame an expansive charge and selection process grounded in pedagogy and a belief in the ability of artists and community members to create a memorial space that exceeds the language and expectations we devise,” Byers said in a statement to the Harvard Gazette.

—Staff writer Jasmine Palma can be reached at

—Staff writer Tess C. Wayland can be reached at

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