About This Project

Welcome to "Columbia University and Slavery," a website created by faculty, students, and staff to publicly present information about Columbia’s historic connections with the institution of slavery.

Origins

The Columbia University and Slavery project explores a previously little-known aspect of the university’s history – its connections with slavery and with antislavery movements from the founding of King’s College to the end of the Civil War.

Pulitzer Prize-winning History Professor Eric Foner led a research course in the spring of 2015 on the role of slavery in Columbia’s early history. At the end of that spring semester, Foner’s class of undergraduates presented their novel findings to both their professor and President Lee C. Bollinger. From those discussions, the Columbia University & Slavery project was initiated to draw on further research to be conducted by faculty and students. Student work was continued in the spring 2016 course under Thai Jones, Department of History Lecturer, with the resulting student and faculty research added to this website.

Content

The website includes "The Preliminary Report" from Eric Foner summarizing the papers and online exhibits created by Columbia students from the research seminars. These reports include a wealth of material about the university and individuals connected with it, including primary sources, and interviews with historians. While significant gaps remain in our knowledge, investigations into the subject will continue to inform this site. We hope that this website, a work in progress, will contribute to public understanding of the key role slavery has played in our nation’s history and offer an example to other institutions of higher learning as they pursue their own investigations.

Credits

Faculty Sponsor: Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History

Contributors: Students from Columbia and Slavery course 2015, 2016, 2017; Ph.D. Candidates Mary T. Freeman & Joshua Schwartz.

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