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The publication of this timely essay, "Yale, Slavery and Abolition," should remind us that the past has not passed. The brutal enslavement of Africans may no longer take place upon these shores but the theory and philosophy of racism that undergirded this inhuman process of human bondage continues to persist. This sad legacy is manifested in disproportionate rates of incarceration, unemployment, life expectancy, infant mortality-and more-endured by those of African descent, not to mention others who have suffered the cruel indignity of white supremacy.

Indeed, a central task for scholars and people of good will in the 21st century will be to ascertain the present-day impact of the bloody history of this nation and, then, to make due, to repair, to make reparations. To be sure, Yale University is not alone in this category of being intertwined with one of the major crimes of the previous millennium--African slavery.

On the campus where I presently teach--the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill--there is a large and imposing statue honoring Confederate soldiers who fought to maintain this bestial institution. Such monuments are quite commonplace in the South and serve as a continuing insult to those from Yale, New Haven, and Connecticut, who died to preserve the Union.

On the other hand, as one of the leading institutions of higher education in the world, it is incumbent upon Yale to be a vanguard force, to serve as an example for other institutions struggling to come to grips with an unfortunate past. No doubt this essay will serve as a catalyst in assisting Yale in this process.

In seeking to repair the tragic legacy of slavery that this essay so brilliantly reveals, Yale should consider convening a conference of its peer institutions with the aim of ascertaining-inter alia-what corporations benefited from slavery and if holdings in these corporations are included in the university's endowment. Minimally, Yale should use its shareholders' rights to pressure these entities to make a good faith effort to compensate those whose lives were disfigured by the unjust enrichment that slavery represented.

This is one small step but, as this essay suggests, much more will have to be done if this nation ever is to embody the words of the old civil rights movement anthem and "overcome some day...."

Dr. Gerald Horne
Professor of African & Afro-American Studies
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
August, 2001



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