Georgetown, The Ivy League, and Unpaid Labor Contribution


We have previously published blog posts about Unpaid Labor’s Contribution and its historic connection to Yale University, Georgetown University, and Brown University.  At Yale, there is a controversy about one of their residential colleges being named after John C. Calhoun. He was one of the most aggressive supporters of slavery in U.S. history. Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to get money to keep the college from going out of business. John Brown, who helped start Brown University, was a slave trader who made a fortune. He gave land to help start Brown. He served as its Treasurer for 21 years. And now Georgetown is back in the news. According to Vox, Georgetown has decided to help the descendants of the slaves they sold to finance the school in 1838 to enroll and get their educations there.

Georgetown can do this because they actually have the bills of sale that identify the slaves by name. They are real people with real names and real descendants. Unpaid Labor only wishes that the names all of the first 12 generations of African Americans were known.


Yale, Georgetown, and Brown are three of our nation’s oldest, wealthiest, and most prominent schools. They are in the news because of their history with slavery. But they are not alone. They are representative of a history of many of our nation’s colleges and universities that is becoming known. MIT Professor Craig Steven Wilder tells us more about that history in his book Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities. He says”…the modern slave trade pulled peoples throughout the Atlantic world into each others’ lives…” He says that the academy (colleges and universities) never stood apart from American slavery… it stood beside church and state as the third pillar of a civilization built on bondage.”

So what’s next? The history written by our nation’s best scholars and organized by Unpaid Labor to tell the story of Contribution tells us there’s more to come. Harvard, Dartmouth, Columbia, Penn, Princeton, Yale, Cornell, and Brown form the Ivy League. Ivy League schools are generally viewed as some of the best schools in the country. They were all chartered before the American Revolution. With the exception of Cornell founded in 1865 slave owners founded them all.

The Georgetown situation gives us just a little peek into the larger system of enslavement and Contribution. Those 272 slaves were so important that selling them saved a university. Today Georgetown has an endowment of $1.529 billion! The first 12 generations of American of African descent enslaved in the North America were important too. They were so important that without them the United States would not have become the most successful nation in modern history. Today America looks back over a period when she has had the largest economy in the world for 100 consecutive years. Remove the thread of Unpaid Labor and the foundations of our oldest university system collapses. Remove the thread of Unpaid Labor and the foundations of a great nation collapses.