The University of Pennsylvania Acknowledges Its Racist Past

The University of Pennsylvania formally announced an initiative to acknowledge its own deeply racist history last Friday. Originally, this issue was brought to light by undergraduate researchers in the fall of 2017 after students found that no fewer than 75 of Penn’s earliest trustees had ownership over another person.
In a statement, Penn President Amy Gutman officially stated, “Penn faculty and alumni were actively involved in framing the Constitution to support slavery and in administering state slavery laws.” Numerous faculty members and alumni were Confederate supporters and routinely used slaves to support themselves.
Among other instances of slavery permeating the reputation of Penn, Gutman noted that the school’s first provost, William Smith, was a slave owner. The school also reimbursed Ebenezer Kinnersley, Penn’s first professor of English, for the work of an enslaved man that he owned for 13 years (1757 to 1770). Dr. John Morgan, the school’s first medical faculty member, was a slave owner as well and helped foster lessons in racial pseudoscience. In addition, Dean William Horner oversaw the entire operation of conducting racial pseudoscience with help from Professor Samuel Morton, Professor Charles Caldwell, and Dr. Samuel Cartwright.
Alumnus and Professor of Mathematics Hugh Williamson played an important rule in making sure the three-fifths clause was included in the US Constitution – a section legally relegating all slaves to only three-fifths the value of a free man.
In response to these findings, Penn is pledging to:

  • Continue research into the school’s ties with slavery
  • Support research into the school’s possible lingering influence of racial pseudoscience in actual medical fields
  • Create a website to be used as a bulletin for all new discoveries about the school’s history
  • Encourage Penn schools and departments to offer informative “programming” about the school’s past

This dramatic release of details regarding Penn’s historically racist past comes wholly as a result of the work done by the Penn Slavery Project, the team of undergraduates and their professor who began looking into possible connections to racial injustice despite the University previously downplaying any involvement.
President Gutman made it clear that she is fully committed to apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, ‘Segoe UI’, Roboto, Oxygen-Sans, Ubuntu, Cantarell, ‘Helvetica Neue’, sans-serif;”>welcoming new evidence and recognizing Penn’s wrongdoing in a statement,

“Penn will continue this effort to learn still more about its past, disseminate our findings, grapple with the implications for our present, and work to secure an ever more inclusive future…The power of knowledge advances our common good; it enables us to be stronger and wiser, and it is essential to our moving forward together.”

World class education and racism seem to go hand in hand. Last year in an article about Princeton’s racist history, the New York Times reported that “In recent years, more than a dozen universities — including Brown, Harvard, Georgetown and the University of Virginia — have acknowledged their historical ties to slavery.”  
Although UPenn is certainly not the only long-established university to be forced to confront its own moral integrity, this development does come shortly after an incident in May, where a law professor deemed black students inferior. Clearly, Penn’s racist tendencies are more deeply rooted than meets the eye.

Tuition Increases Approved For Oklahoma Public Colleges
Tuition Increases Approved For Oklahoma Public Colleges
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