The University of Minnesota’s Historical Ties to Slavery

It may come as a surprise to many readers, but another university that is examining its historical ties to slavery is the University of Minnesota.

In 1856, the university was struggling financially and received a loan of nearly $15,000 from William Aiken Jr., who at one time owned more than 700 slaves in South Carolina. This money helped build one of the first campus buildings, Old Main. The university repaid about half of the loan in 1857, but the rest was still owed when the Civil War broke out in 1861. The Rebellion Act passed by the Legislature in 1862 made it impossible for Aiken to retrieve the rest of his money.

In addition to the Aiken loan, Henry Sibley, who secured the university’s land grant from the federal government in 1851, worked for a company owned by slaveholders. John Nicols owned slaves before serving on the board of regents in 1863.

Christopher Lehman, chair of the department of ethnic and women’s studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota and author of the book Slavery’s Reach: Southern Slaveholders in the North Star State (Minnesota Historical Society, 2019), said that “at the very least, the university can make public acknowledgment of its debt to enslaved labor. The university should present this relationship as a fundamental and essential part of the university’s history.”

Professor Lehman joined the faculty at St. Cloud State University in 2002. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University, where he majored in history. Dr. Lehman holds a master’s degree in history and a Ph.D. in African American studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Census Bureau Finds White Households Were Ten Times Wealthier Than Black Households in 2021

In 2021, White households represented 65.3 percent of all American homes, but owned 80 percent of all wealth. In comparison, Black households represented 13.6 percent of all households, but held only 4.7 percent of all wealth.

Bonita Brown Named Fourteenth Chancellor of Winston-Salem State University

Earlier in her career, Dr. Brown served as an assistant attorney with Winston-Salem State University. On July 1, she will return to the historically Black university as its fourteenth chancellor.

Study Debunks Popular Theory that Incarceration Leads to Safer Communities for Black Americans

A new study from Boston University has challenged the assumption that incarceration leads to safer communities, finding higher rates of incarceration in Black communities results in higher gun violence in those same communities. This pattern was not found among White or Hispanic neighborhoods.

Jonathan Jefferson Appointed President of Roxbury Community College in Boston

Dr. Jefferson comes to his new role with more than three decades of professional experience. He has been serving  as chief academic officer and provost at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Featured Jobs