Antigua Prime Minister Wants Harvard To Pay Reparations For Slave Labor That Paid For Its Law School

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
Reparations
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Alphonso Browne Antigua’s wants Harvard to pay reparations since its law school was built on the backs of Antiguan slaves. In this photo, he speaks during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne is showing that reparations for slavery is not just an American issue. In a letter to Harvard, Browne reminded the renowned Ivy League institution its law school was built on the backs of Antiguan slaves, reported the New York Times.

Dated Oct. 30, the letter addressed to Harvard President Lawrence Bascow made it clear Browne was not asking for a handout, but rather due payment for the suffering of Antiguan slaves.

“Reparation from Harvard would compensate for its development on the backs of our people,” Browne wrote. “Reparation is not aid; it is not a gift; it is compensation to correct the injustices of the past and restore equity. Harvard should be in the forefront of this effort.”

According to The Harvard Crimson, Antiguan slave owner Isaac Royall Jr. donated the money used to create the first endowed law professorship in 1815. The law school held his family’s crest as its symbol until 2016 after Black students protested to have it changed.

Browne asked that Harvard make recompense by paying reparations to the University of the West Indies at Five Islands to help Antiguans with educational pursuits. He suggested a meeting between Harvard and his government’s officials.

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This is not the first time representatives of Antigua’s government have contacted Harvard about this issue. They also contacted the university in 2016 and 2018. After growing frustrated with Harvard’s lack of response, Browne wrote a letter himself.

Bascow responded that Harvard has taken “significant steps” to acknowledge its role in slavery, but said they “recognize that there is more work to be done,” reported the Miami Herald.

“Indeed, Harvard is determined to take additional steps to explore this institution’s historical relationship with slavery and the challenging moral questions that arise when confronting past injustices and their legacies. Harvard is also committed to working with other educational institutions to study slavery and its legacy,” Bascow wrote.

Harvard is one of several universities to come under fire for their ties to slavery in recent years. However, unlike the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Georgetown University, Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, Harvard has made no commitment to pay monetary reparations. Because of this, Browne told the Herald he felt Bascow’s response was “disingenuous.”

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“He has acknowledged the veracity of our claim that Harvard Law School benefited from endowments funded from profits associated with the enslavement … at Royall Estate in Antigua, but he has failed to address the issue of reparations in a meaningful way,” Browne said. “If they fail to engage meaningfully, we will be forced to pursue all legal remedies available to us to ensure … justice.”