Making a Just Society | MIT and the Legacy of Slavery

Video ©2018 MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences


“MIT is part of a larger exploration of the ties between American universities and slavery, but we are not just participating, we are also leading a part of it. We are leading the research about the relationship of technology and science to the institution of slavery — not only to better understand our own history, but to fulfill our role as an elite university and to help build our role for the 21st century.”

— Craig Steven Wilder, Barton L. Weller Professor of History


MIT students have begun exploring the university’s entanglement with the institution of slavery, in the process writing a more complete history and helping to catalyze a national conversation about the legacies of slavery in science, engineering, and technical education.

Project catalyzed by President Reif 
Set in motion by MIT President L. Rafael Reif with SHASS Dean Melissa Nobles, the course was developed and taught by Craig Steven Wilder, Barton L. Weller Professor of History, and the nation’s leading expert on the links between universities and slavery, in collaboration with Nora Murphy, MIT Archivist for Researcher Services.
Letter from MIT President L. Rafael Reif

Undergraduate Course | MIT and Slavery - 21H.SO1
Through this ongoing undergraduate research class,
the Institute aims to contribute to the national conversation about the legacies of slavery and to lead research on the relationship between the slave economies of the Atlantic world, the fields of science and engineering, and U.S. technical institutions.
Webpage | Collected media: stories, videos, news, and features

Students research explores MIT's connections to the institution of slavery
The initial class findings include, among others: insights about MIT's role in the post-Civil War era of Reconstruction; examples of racism in the culture of the early campus; and the fact that MIT’s founder, William Barton Rogers, owned six enslaved people in Virginia before he moved to Massachusetts in 1853. 
Story on the initial research findings | Video

Community dialogue 
MIT has held two events for the community to explore the findings of the MIT and Slavery research project to date. The first dialogue event, The Early Findings, was held Feburary 16, 2018, and the second, The Task of History, took place on May 3, 2018.
Story on the Early Findings event  |  Story on the Task of History event

On the MIT and Slavery project | Melissa Nobles and Craig Steven Wilder
Dean Nobles and Professor Wilder discuss their thoughts about the ongoing research project and the community dialogue series. 
Interview by SHASS Communications

A student in the MIT and Slavery class, doing research in the MIT Archives, where the class was held

“I believe the work of this class is important to the present — and to the future. What can history teach us now, as we work to invent the future? How can we make sure that the technologies we invent will contribute to making a better world for all?"

— L. Rafael Reif, President of MIT


The Task of History

MIT historians discuss the power of historical knowledge to help make a better world.

Media and Resource Collection | MIT and the Legacy of Slavery

Collected stories, videos, media, websites, and other resources about the MIT and Legacy of Slavery project