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Brown University’s New Legacy

Slavery and Justice Report issued by Brown UniversityIn 2003, Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons appointed a Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice to investigate the University’s historical relationship to slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. On Oct. 18, 2006, the committee formally transmitted its report to President Simmons, who ordered its immediate public release. The report is available in electronic form through the Brown home page.

Released as a downloadable PDF file, the report is accompanied by an online repository of background materials that provides information about the committee’s composition and charge, as well as a calendar of sponsored programs featuring video excerpts of dozens of presenters who appeared at Brown under the committee’s auspices.

The site also includes links to newly created scholarly resources, including curricular materials for teachers and a digital archive of primary source historical documents, enabling readers to examine and evaluate the same materials that steering committee members consulted. Perhaps most remarkable, the Web site includes a complete reconstruction of the voyage of a single Rhode Island slave ship, the Sally, dispatched to Africa in 1764, the year of Brown’s founding, by members of the University’s namesake family. The Web site also includes facilities for interested readers to offer feedback on the committee’s efforts and to read the responses of others.

In coming months, the University will sponsor a series of public events, providing students and members of the general public with an opportunity to reflect on, respond to, and criticize the committee’s work. The first such event will be an open forum with members of the steering committee, to be held on Wednesday, Nov. 1, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Salomon Center for Teaching, Room 101. The event is free and open to the public.

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