The University of Pennsylvania to Investigate Its Early Ties to Slavery

In a letter to the campus community, Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, and Wendell Pritchett, provost at the university, announced the formation of working group to examine the history of slavery as it related to the university.

University founder, Benjamin Franklin was a slave owner early in his life but then became an abolitionist. About one half of the university’s original trustees were slave owners.

President Gutmann and Provost Pritchett wrote that “the institution of slavery is a profoundly shameful and deeply tragic part of American history. It is important that we fully understand how it affected our university in its early years and that we reflect as a university about the current meaning of this history. Our intention is to seek the truth and acknowledge it, and to offer recommendations for any next steps.”

The working group will be chaired by Dr. Pritchett. Before becoming provost last year, he was the Presidential Professor of Law and Education at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Earlier, Professor Pritchett was chancellor of the Camden campus of Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Dr. Pritchett is the author of Brownsville, Brooklyn: Blacks, Jews and the Changing Face of the Ghetto (University of Chicago Press, 2002) and Robert Clifton Weaver and the American City: The Life and Times of an Urban Reformer (University of Chicago Press, 2008).

Professor Pritchett is a graduate of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he majored in political science. He earned his law degree at Yale University and holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Pennsylvania.

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  1. Jah and Jahnes love. I am really happy to learn about this initiative by the University of Pennsylvania. I was a Doctoral Candidate at Penn from 1993-1996 and during that time, I was subjected to a lot of prejudice because of my race, ethnicity and class. I eventually separated from Penn and continued my studies at another University. But, I am hopeful that someday I will get an appology for the mistreatment that I suffered from students, faculty and staff. And I am soo glad that Dr.Prichett is a Provost and that he is leading this inquiry into the University’s ties to slavery. I believe firmly that until we come grips with the painful past of the genocide of Natives and the enslavement and destruction of Africans, we will not move on to a brighter future. So cheers to the pursuit of happiness and knowing. Blessed love.

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