NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Rutgers University is confronting its historical ties to slavery.
Rutgers University (Courtesy Photo)
The New Jersey school founded in 1766 has compiled research that sheds new light on its beginnings, including an untold story of a slave who helped build the university’s iconic Old Queens administration building.
The detailed report released Friday is published in the book “Scarlet and Black.” It shows how intertwined slavery is with the early history of Rutgers, a common theme among America’s colonial colleges.
The book combines previously documented history with some new details to paint a vivid picture of the university’s relationship with slavery, a history school officials say was largely unacknowledged by Rutgers until this year. It also examines the displacement of Native Americans who once occupied land later transferred to Rutgers.
“It’s something that I think most people at Rutgers had no clue about,” said New Brunswick campus chancellor Richard Edwards, who ordered the report last year after black students raised concerns about the racial climate on campus.
The book notes that Rutgers’ namesake, Henry Rutgers, and its first president owned slaves. Some early university trustees also owned slaves and were among the most ardent anti-abolitionists in the mid-Atlantic region.
The committee of university professors and students that spent eight months combing through archived documents and compiling the report has issued more than a dozen recommendations.
Among them are calls for the university to place historical markers on campus recognizing the contributions of slaves and to consider naming new buildings after prominent Blacks or Native Americans. They also suggest that all Rutgers students should be required to take a course in diversity.
“The committee has explored aspects of our history that are difficult and complex and I applaud them for it,” Rutgers President Robert Barchi said. “Their findings provide a fuller understanding of the institution’s early days.”
Rutgers will consider all of the suggestions, Edwards said. It also will continue its research and document the experiences of Blacks and Native Americans at the university through the 20th century.