Brown & Slavery & Justice

Colleges and Slavery

The Slavery and Justice Report sparked a national reckoning among higher education institutions regarding their historical connections with racial slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.

​​More than a decade after [President Ruth] Simmons’ call at Brown, Georgetown undertook a similar project and quickly discovered that such a process would have been unimaginable without the Slavery and Justice Report.

Marcia Chatelain Associate Professor of History and African American Studies, Georgetown University

By the year 2021 — 15 years after Brown’s watershed 2006 Slavery and Justice Report — more than 80 universities in the United States, Canada and Great Britain had embarked on investigations into their ties with racial slavery. 

The President’s Commission on Slavery and the University at the University of Virginia is one of many dozens of similar college and university initiatives that have been created in the wake of Brown’s Slavery and Justice Report. Brown, one of the first universities to commit to understanding and grappling with its historical ties to racial slavery and the slave trade, not only sparked a national discussion across higher education, but also provided a rigorous blueprint with which to begin the process. A passage on a University of Virginia website reads, “Frankly, Brown was the institution that inspired all of us to begin our work.”

Guided by Brown’s example, institutions large and small, within and outside the United States, also are using the Slavery and Justice Report to guide explorations of such issues as Indigenous rights, gentrification, displacement and a range of issues based in race.

Extending Brown's Reach Nationally

Brown is part of a consortium of more than 80 colleges and universities in North America and Europe that are working together to reckon with ties to the slave trade and its legacy.
In 2017, Brown convened students, faculty, alumni and others from more than 20 colleges and universities for a summit on diversity and inclusion in higher education.
In 2016, President Emerita Ruth J. Simmons returned to Brown to discuss how the Slavery and Justice Report was driven by the aim to “teach us about ourselves” but ultimately drove a national quest for introspection in higher education.