History & Mission

Slavery has often been called America’s “original sin,” and Americans of all races have grappled with the history and multiple legacies of slavery for generations. America’s colleges and universities have always been deeply enmeshed in this history—in some cases, because of their geographic locations or their unique institutional histories (including those that were founded by slave owners or established to educate freedpeople and their descendants). Many independent colleges already pursue innovative research, teaching, and community engagement to enhance understanding of the legacies of slavery. Others are poised to forge robust partnerships with community and regional organizations to promote public discussion of contentious issues and explore ways that the legacies of slavery might be addressed through civic action. This project is designed to support initiatives at the campus, regional, and national levels.

Legacies of American Slavery is a multi-year project, providing a variety of opportunities for CIC member institutions, their faculty members and students, and community-based partners to participate in research, teaching and learning, and public discussions about the legacies of American slavery. In February 2021, CIC announced the selection of seven institutions that will serve as Regional Collaboration Partners—that is, the coordinating hubs for a national network of other colleges, universities, and community partners. The Regional Collaboration Partners will play an essential role in shaping and administering the national network, using funds provided by CIC. CIC also named a dozen colleges and universities (listed below) as Institutional Affiliates. These institutions will play a key role in developing the national network.

Legacies Network activities began in earnest in summer 2021. The Regional Collaboration Partners will host a series of thematic conferences in fall 2022 and continue to collaborate with other CIC institutions and community-based partners through 2024. In addition, summer workshops for faculty members will be hosted by Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition (GLC) in 2022–2023, and a national conference will be held in spring 2024.

Legacies of American Slavery is an initiative of the Council of Independent Colleges, in cooperation with the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at the MacMillan Center, Yale University. It is supported by a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation with supplemental funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.