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Brown U. President Forms Panel To Study School's T

As appeared in today's Washington Post and on

Brown U. President Forms Panel To Study School's Ties to Slavery

Associated Press
Sunday, March 14, 2004; Page A15

PROVIDENCE, R.I., March 13 -- Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons, a great-granddaughter of slaves, has established a committee to examine the school's historical ties to slavery and debate whether the university should make amends.

Simmons, the first African American to lead an Ivy League school, appointed about 15 faculty members, students and administrators, including historians, political scientists and experts in the fields of African studies, American civilization and ethnic studies.

The group was appointed last spring and has met monthly since the fall, the Providence Journal reported earlier this month.

"I sit here in my office beneath the portrait of people who lived at a different time and who saw the ownership of people in a different way," Simmons said in an interview published Saturday in the New York Times. "You can't sit in an office and face that every day unless you really want to . . . understand this dichotomy."

A university booklet titled "A Short History" notes the connections between the institution and the family for which is named, but omits the family's connections to the slave trade.

Nicholas Brown Sr., who was one of the original incorporators in 1764, was a wealthy merchant whose family gave generously to the school.

Brown's brother John was a slave trader. He became the first Rhode Islander prosecuted under the federal Slave Trade Act of 1794 but continued to defend slavery until his death. Another brother, Moses, and their nephew, Nicholas Brown Jr., however, became ardent abolitionists and worked to end slavery by pushing for a tougher prohibition against slave ships entering U.S. ports.

"What I'm trying to do, you see, in a country that wants to move on, I'm trying to understand as a descendant of slaves how to feel about moving on," Simmons told the Times.

2004 The Washington Post Company

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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