Admiral Esek Hopkins’ Clock, Brown University, and Unpaid Labor Contribution
Extraordinary may be the best word to describe the Brown University Committee Report on Slavery and Justice. It is a road map for the other Ivy League colleges to follow to document the benefits (Contribution) they gained from slavery (Unpaid Labor). It starts with the history. It travels the road to acknowledgment. It goes on to making a memorial to the Contribution. It promises action. It is expected to end in racial healing. That’s what we at Unpaid Labor are all about.
The report says that in 2003 Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons appointed the Committee on Slavery and Justice to investigate and issue a public report on the University’s historical relationship to slavery. The Committee met for several months in the oldest building on Brown’s campus. After several months they realized that the clock in the meeting room was “The Family Clock of Admiral Esek Hopkins”. He was the brother of Stephen Hopkins, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was the first commander-in-chief of the United States Navy during the American Revolution. He was the captain of a slave ship that sailed from Rhode Island in 1764 to West Africa. Hopkins bought 196 slaves for the ship’s owners, Nicholas, John, Joseph, and Moses Brown. They were important benefactors of the College of Rhode Island that changed its name to Brown University in their honor. The report goes on to say that “such artifacts and heirlooms abound on the campus...”
Imagine that. One clock. One family. One school. How many “clocks” must there be at the other Ivy League schools that tell us about the contribution of Unpaid Labor to the birth, growth, and survival of the United States? Brown is shining the light on its history. They are doing it to reveal the involvement of many of the University’s founders and benefactors in slavery and the slave trade. They are doing it to outline some of the direct benefits that the University got. They are doing it to look at the problem of justice around the world and in the United States.
We think that what Brown is doing is exciting. We encourage the other Ivy League colleges to follow their example. It is important to the nation that we get the history right. When the nation realizes the Contribution of Unpaid Labor to our foundational institutions that will change everything.
Twelve generations of enslaved Americans of African descent contributed to the incredible development and overwhelming success of the United States of America. We need your help in getting the nation to acknowledge their indispensable contribution. Help tell The African American Contribution Story because we all benefit from it today.
Photo Credit: Brown University