A report commissioned by Brown University more than a decade ago revealed that the school's eponymous family was deeply involved in the transatlantic slave trade. Citing the school's history with slavery, the school's undergraduate students they have voted it in favor of the university that provides reparations to the descendants of the enslaved.
According to CNN in 2003 the first black president of the university, Ruth J. Simmons, commissioned a report. , to investigate the Brown family's ties to the slave trade. The report was finally released in 2006 and found that the Brown family had made several trips to Africa for the sole purpose of acquiring slaves. Undergraduate Student Council (UCS) president Jason Carroll, whose parents are descendants of slaves, proposed the vote and also wrote a referendum demanding that the university finally take action on the report.
“We have a whole new direction as a nation, a whole new understanding of advocating for blacks. I think before this past summer saying you support Black Lives Matter was honestly somewhat controversial, ”Carroll said. "It wasn't until the murder of Mr. [George] Floyd and the protests last summer that it became conventional enough for universities like Brown to say so."
More than 2,000 students participated in the vote, with the majority in favor of giving preferential treatment to students whose ancestors were enslaved.
For specific communities that have direct ties to the slave trade, the vote called for specific investments, engagement efforts, recruitment in high schools with large populations of black students, and relationships and partnerships with colleges and universities close to communities of descendants, as in the southern states.
A total of 2,024 students voted when the final count took place on Friday, and more than 80% voted in favor of repairs for the descendants. .
“The university makes its own decisions regarding the student body… but the important thing is to spread the word that the vast majority of students approved something. The ball is on the college court now, ”Carroll said. "It is really an expression of the feeling of the students."
Carroll, a senior, spoke of the richness of what Brown's story can mean for communities affected by the slave trade and directly linked to the university. The vote on his referendum also called for greater identification of those directly affected by the actions of the Brown family.
“Although not all of us can go back and change the past, both public and private institutions in the United States have the opportunity and responsibility to reconcile the unaccounted for and unpaid work that gave them their power by giving back to the communities they have helped to marginalize, "Lauren Wilson, co-chair of the Brown Union of Black Students, told CNN.
As Carroll mentioned, the students have expressed their opinion about the direction they want the university to take, and now it is up to the university to determine how, if anything, it will respond to the students' vote.
"Addressing the issues of reparations and institutional reckoning with connections to the transatlantic slave trade has a deep history at Brown," university spokesman Brian Clark told the outlet.
“The university questioned this issue as a whole community from 2003 to 2006, and Brown engaged in a series of actions whose impact persists in our education, research, engagement with historically underrepresented groups, and continued work on diversity, equity and inclusion. The current work of the Brown Task Force Against Black Racism will make recommendations on more things Brown can do to address the legacy of slavery, ”he added.
While it is unclear whether the school will take action on any of the student proposals, it is at least encouraging to see that a large portion of the student body is in favor of trying to rectify the errors. of the past.