MIT and Slavery reveals initial findings

Course explores the Institute's connections to slavery


MIT and Slavery is an undergraduate research course on the founding and development of the Institute. Co-taught by Craig Steven Wilder, Barton L. Weller Professor of History, and Archivist for Researcher Services Nora Murphy, the class was embedded in the Institute Archives, where students researched a variety of topics using primary sources from the 19th century.

In February 2018, students and researchers presented their initial findings, including the discovery that MIT’s first president, William Barton Rogers, possessed enslaved persons in his Virginia household until the early 1850s, roughly a decade before he founded the Institute. Each student also chose a research topic, ranging from racial imagery in early MIT student publications to an early MIT class in moral philosophy that discussed slavery that was later dropped in the 1880s. These student projects, which involve working closely with archival material, will inform an evolving history of MIT and Slavery.

Read more about the initial findings of MIT and Slavery

Watch a recording of the February 16 panel discussion event, MIT and the Legacy of Slavery



In the Media

Looking into its past, MIT finds its first president once owned slaves
The Boston Globe

MIT Exploring Link Between Slavery and Science, Discovers Founder Was a Slave Owner

‘It was not expected’ that MIT Founder Owned Slaves in 1860