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In 1988, when several of us gathered to plan for the 150th Anniversary of the Amistad Revolt, we discussed the significance of the lessons of that historic event and the campaign that followed to free the Amistad captives. From the first days slavery appeared in our country, history records many attempts at freedom by slaves. Slavery was never passively accepted. The Amistad Revolt stood out because white Abolitionists realized it was their moral and historic responsibility to engage, jointly, in the struggle. We acknowledged we could build upon that history to combat racism today, in all its forms and manifestations. The mission of the Amistad Committee was established. We have attempted to walk that path faithfully.

Since those days, the conversation has broadened. The struggles against racism have become sharper. While some progress has been made, benefiting some, the economic gap between Blacks and Whites has grown. Even a basic democratic right as equal justice has become a battle cry at the hands of police and in the courts.

There is a growing militant movement against all vestiges of slavery. In the South, it is the Confederate flag, a symbol of slaveholders. The demand for collective reparations, for truth and reconciliation, is on the national agenda. Our position is clear; our country can never redeem itself without facing slavery, acknowledging the historic guilt. As a nation we must rise to the occasion to make amends to a people upon whose backs the country was fashioned. Then, and only then, can we truly move forward to eradicate the legacy of racism.

In light of this, we welcome the opportunity to publish this essay, "Yale, Slavery and Abolition". The campaign to free the Amistad captives unfolded in New Haven. The original Amistad Committee that led that campaign in 1839, with support from Yale faculty and students, was from New Haven. The present Amistad Committee conducts its business in New Haven. Just as we support efforts to remove Confederate flags in the South and combat racial injustice wherever it exists, it is incumbent upon us to focus upon our own community. We would be remiss in carrying out our mission if we did less.

This essay is a scholarly work raising the fundamental question: How can buildings at Yale University, sitting in the heart of New Haven, carry the names of not only slaveholders but ardent advocates for slavery? Moreover, how could Yale choose these names, not during the time of slavery, but in the 1930s and 1960s, periods of great struggles in our land? Such an examination is essential if institutions, as well as (the) government, are to face up to their responsibilities. The essay is a contribution to the national debate, long overdue.

Dr. Ira Berlin, noted historian, wrote: "... Americans are again struggling with slavery, and in so doing, hope to vanquish slavery's legacy: the burden of racism ... In turning to the past to understand the present, it has become evident that Americans will not be, in Lincoln's words, forever free until they have mastered slavery as slavery once mastered them."

Alfred L. Marder President
The Amistad Committee, Inc.
August 1, 2001



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