MIT and the Legacy of Slavery (2018)


Craig Steven Wilder, Barton L. Weller Professor of History
Nora Murphy, MIT Archivist

Course Description

This undergraduate research course explores the influence of slavery and race on MIT’s founding and early development, and the connections between slavery and the rise of the sciences and engineering. Students will have their research projects published through the MIT & SLAVERY website, hosted by the MIT Libraries.


MIT and Slavery (Course 21H-S01)

The first class of the "MIT and Slavery" research project took place in the Fall of 2017 and the initial findings will be published in detail during the Spring 2018 term. Among other discoveries, the early findings: offer insights about the role of MIT in the post-Civil War era of Reconstruction; reveal examples of racism in the culture of the early campus; and uncover the fact that MIT’s founder, William Barton Rogers, owned six enslaved people in Virginia, before he moved to Massachusetts in 1853.

The findings also suggest new lines of research about the entangled relationship between the slave economies of the Atlantic world, the fields of science and engineering, and U.S. technical institutions. MIT seeks to encourage such new historical research and to contribute to the larger national conversation about the ongoing legacies of slavery — including how history helps us better understand the roles, impact, and responsibilities of science and technology institutions in contemporary society. The "MIT and Slavery" research project will continue into the foreseeable future and its findings will be shared apace via a website that is accessible to the MIT community, scholars, the public, and the media.



  1. MIT and the Legacy of Slavery: Reviewing the Early Findings- MIT, 16 February 2018

  2. The Task of History: An MIT Community Dialogue- MIT, 3 May 2018

  3. BAMIT Capstone Weekend- MIT & Slavery: A presentation by MIT students- MIT, 3 November 2018

Timeline: 2010s
School: School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Department: AdministrationHistoryHumanitiesPolitical ScienceScience, Technology, and Society
Career: Arts & HumanitiesCommunityEducationEngineeringGovernment & LawScienceTechnology
Object: Video
Collection: Administrators, Craig S. Wilder, L. Rafael Reif, Melissa Nobles, MIT Presidents, Rising Voices 1995-Present, Roots and Exponents 1875-1920, Students, William B. Rogers
External Link: