Brown & Slavery & Justice

President Ruth J. Simmons’ thank you letter to the committee, October 2006

Committee Communications

October 18, 2006

Dear Members of the Committee on Slavery and Justice,

When I appointed a committee to investigate and bring to light the relationship between the founding of Brown University and the New England slave trade, I hardly imagined that the work would require the time of so many over such an extended period.  I must begin by thanking all of you for your careful research, diligent debate, and transparent approach to the examination of this question. 

The University community owes you a debt of gratitude for the information you have uncovered and the many insights that you have provided with regard to what our institutional history might require of us today.  There will be much to debate in your report and you have set a good example of the spirit in which that debate might proceed.

I am asking the Department of Public Affairs and University Relations to make the report available immediately to the entire Brown community.  In my cover note to the community, I am encouraging a full reading of the report rather than a cursory look at the recommendations.  Given the length of the document, it may take some time before that full reading can take place.  In the meantime, I would ask that you plan for an open forum at which the committee can present its report and answer questions. 

Many of the recommendations in the report speak to initiatives that are already substantially underway:  local school partnerships and investments, admission and financial aid initiatives, curricular approaches and so on.  Other recommendations call for new projects and significant new investments that will require consideration by the University Resources Committee and the Corporation.  I look forward to the community’s consideration of the various facets of the report.  However, given the nature of this project and its implication for our community, I believe we would all benefit from the broadest feedback from faculty, students, staff and alumni.  Whatever forms our recognition of this history takes should be responsive and meaningful to our community.

In addition to this feedback and process, I can assure you that I will in time make my own recommendations to University bodies as to relevant initiatives that I believe we can and should enact.

I thank you again for your many months of work and assure you that we will consider carefully the report’s findings and recommendations.


Ruth J. Simmons