Samuel Case, FISM News
Harvard University announced a $100 million endowment fund as a means to address the school’s history of racial wrongs. The endowment was announced in an email from Harvard President Lawrence Bacow who said that “the nation’s oldest institution of higher education … helped to perpetuate the era’s racial oppression and exploitation.”
The announcement follows a commissioned report that found Harvard faculty, staff, and leaders owned over 70 black and Native American slaves between 1636 and 1783. “Moreover, throughout this period and well into the 19th century, the University and its donors benefited from extensive financial ties to slavery,” the report reads.
The money will not be used as direct reparations but will be “a necessary predicate to and foundation for redress,” by establishing the “Legacy of Slavery Fund.” This fund will be used to fulfill various recommendations from the report such as establishing summer programs to bring students and staff from historically black colleges to Harvard. The fund will also allow the school to work with the descendants of those enslaved at Harvard, the New York Times reports.
Harvard’s announcement follows similar moves from other long-standing universities. In 2019 Georgetown University dedicated itself to raising $400,000 for the descendants of slaves that were sold by the school, while Princeton Theological Seminary established a $27.6 million reparation fund. A 2021 Virginia law required five of its state universities to establish scholarships for the descendants of those enslaved by the school.
Political opinions on reparations aside, the actions by Harvard University and other elite institutions to enact programs to deal with past wrongs speaks to something deeper than the grievance culture that is prevalent in America, though that is certainly a large factor. Instead, the colleges are grappling with something we all deal with in our day to day lives – shame. Shame for sins both past and present. Shame that we aren’t the people we know we were created to be. And in light of this shame desperately trying to do something, anything, to find forgiveness and present ourselves as the respectable people we tell ourselves we are.
Shame is the natural response to sin. It has been since sin first entered the world. Genesis records that upon Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they hid from God out of shame of their nakedness, which they were explicitly “unashamed” of prior to their fall. (Gen 2:25, 3:10)
This is why the gospel truly is “good news,” because God, on the cross in the person of Jesus Christ, accomplished what we were unable to do – He erased our sins. Because of Christ there is there a solution to the problem of shame for those who trust in Him as told to us in Romans 8:1.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
News in Four is a segment of FISM News that breaks down stories in four easy to digest segments and can be read in four minutes or less. While these articles are meant to provide a biblical perspective to current events, FISM News does not intend to hold these perspectives as absolute truth, knowing that the news is often nuanced and politically driven. While our goal is to provide a jumping off point to view the news through a biblical lens, God has called all believers, like Bereans, to search the Bible for oneself (Acts 17:11-12).