THE REPENTANCE PROJECT / AN AMERICAN LENT
Wealth From Slavery Establishes
Early Colleges & Universities
Early Colleges & Universities
WEEK VI / DAY II
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Scripture | Luke 19:2-8
A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
History and Legacy
The slave trade made wealthy many who became benefactors and trustees for America’s earliest educational institutions, like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.
Orphaned teenager Alexander Hamilton managed Nicholas Cruger’s shipping business, which brought enslaved human beings and supplies to plantations. Cruger’s father and uncles were among the founding trustees of King’s College (Columbia University) in 1754, and they funded Hamilton’s education at King’s.
Furman University’s (1828) namesake, The Rev. Dr. Richard Furman, was a slave owner and pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston, SC. Furman was a leader in the Charleston Baptist Association when in 1853 it stated the following: "The Divine Author of our holy religion adopted this institution [slavery] as one of the allowed relations of society [the relation of slave to master]…..We would resist to the utmost every invasion of this 'right' come from what quarter and under what penitence it may (The American Slave Code In Theory and In Practice by William Goodell, 1853:38).”
Craig Steven Wilder, an author and professor of American history at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, states in his prologue to Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities: “The founding, financing, and development of higher education in the colonies were thoroughly intertwined with the economic and social forces that transformed West and Central Africa through the slave trade and devastated indigenous nations in the Americas. The academy was a beneficiary and defender of these processes. … The American academy never stood apart from American slavery — it stood beside church and state as the third pillar of a civilization built on bondage” (Wilder, 2013:2, 11).
Reflection and Response
Georgetown University, under the leadership of its president, John DeGoia, commissioned a study of the institution’s link to slavery. The report documented, in part, that Georgetown University’s leaders sold 272 enslaved individuals to landowners in Louisiana in 1838 to pay off its debts. Watch DeGoia’s 96-second video excerpt of a speech on the findings. For a deeper understanding as to the importance of this acknowledgement and subsequent actions, watch the presidents of Harvard and Georgetown address this topic.
How does this account of Georgetown’s response coincide with the response of Zacchaeus? Consider what you would want your collegiate or high school alma mater to do if it were discovered that the names of buildings, scholarships, or programs were named after those who profited from the enslavement of men, women, and children.
Written by Demetrius Summerville