Understanding Yale and its History with Slavery

David Blight
Monday, October 19, 2020

President Peter Salovey has announced a year and a half study of Yale and its history with slavery.  The project will include a working group of faculty, staff, librarians, research assistants, and community members. The effort is chaired by David Blight, GLC director, and it will be administered and conducted by the staff of the GLC in conjunction with the President’s office and numerous departments at Yale.

To understand where we are today and to move forward as a community, we must study the history of our university. As an American institution that is 319 years old, Yale has a complex past that includes associations, many of them formative, with individuals who actively promoted slavery, anti-Black racism, and other forms of exploitation. We have a responsibility to explore this history, including its most difficult aspects; we cannot ignore our institution’s own ties to slavery and racism, and we should take this opportunity to research, understand, analyze, and communicate that history.

Professor David Blight, Sterling Professor of History, of African American Studies, and of American Studies, has agreed to lead a thorough examination of Yale’s historical entanglements with slavery and connections to abolition that will be made public for discussion, remembrance, memorialization, and learning. To complete this work, Professor Blight will use the resources of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at the MacMillan Center, and reach out to scholars associated with the Department of African American Studies; the Department of History; the Program in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration; the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration; and other units. A working group of faculty, staff, librarians, and community members is being organized to oversee the project. Several student research assistants will be enlisted to examine documents and materials in Yale archives and other research collections. The project will aim to complete its work and produce a written assessment by the end of the 2021 calendar year.