Colleges pushed anew for reparations for slavery, racism

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Brown University graduate Jason Carroll, a Maryland native whose ancestors were slaves in the Carolinas, stands for a portrait on the Brown campus in Providence, R.I., on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, near University Hall, background, that was constructed in part using slave labor. Theres real trauma and pain here, says Carroll. This shouldnt just be an academic question. There are real families that have been burdened and harmed by this and probably still are. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – For Brown University students, the Ivy League college's next step in its yearslong quest to atone for its legacy of slavery is clear: Pay up.

Nearly two decades after the Providence, Rhode Island, institution launched its much-lauded reckoning, undergraduate students this spring voted overwhelmingly for the university to identify the descendants of slaves that worked on campus and begin paying them reparations.

At the University of Georgia, community activists want the school to contribute to Athens' efforts to atone for an urban renewal project that destroyed a Black community in the 1960s to make way for college dorms.

And at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., there’s growing dissatisfaction among some slave descendants about the Catholic institution’s pioneering reparations efforts.

Nearly a year after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police sparked the latest national reckoning on racism, student and community activists from New England to the Deep South are demanding institutions take more ambitious steps to atone for past sins — from colonial-era slavery to more recent campus expansion projects that have pushed out entire communities of color.

“There’s been a shift in America,” said Jason Carroll, who was student council president during the spring referendum at Brown University. “We’re at a different place. Just a few years ago, it was controversial to say ‘Black Lives Matter.’”

The 22-year-old Maryland native, who graduated this month, argues Brown has taken nearly every conceivable step to atone for its past — save for making slave descendants whole.

The school released an exhaustive historical report in 2006 and followed it up with the dedication of a slavery memorial in 2014, among other efforts. An “Anti-Black Racism” task force is expected to deliver recommendations soon for how the school can further promote racial equity. But university spokesperson Brian Clark stressed it’s not clear whether the panel, which was formed following last summer’s racial unrest, will address reparations.