The University released the second edition of its 2006 “Report of the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice” Friday, according to a University news release.
The second edition expands on the original report with a foreword by President Christina Paxson P’19, an interview with former President Ruth J. Simmons, 14 commissioned essays and a summary of the University’s response to the original report. The new report was edited by Barrymore Bogues, director of the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice; Cass Cliatt, senior vice president for communications; and Allison Levy, digital scholarship editor.
According to Paxson, the second edition was crafted to build on the goals set by the original.
“The 2006 report has played such a significant role in Brown’s history and also started a national wave of similar types of studies at other institutions,” Paxson said in an interview with The Herald. “Honoring that report, highlighting it and bringing it into the modern day context is not the only thing we need to do. But it’s one of the important things we need to do.”
The original report, commissioned by Simmons, explored the University’s relationship to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The report was reintroduced to campus last year as the First Readings assignment in first-year orientation for the classes of 2024 and 2025, The Herald previously reported.
Assigning the report to incoming first-years prompted the University to begin work on a second edition, according to Levy.
“The reason this started is because we learned that the First Readings text for (the summer of) 2020 … was the Slavery and Justice report,” she said. The original report was “available on a website that the library manages and it was just quite dated.”
“Here was an opportunity … to tell the fuller story of how it came into being, so we really approached it as a brand new publication,” she added.
The new edition includes 14 essays written by former and current Brown-affiliated scholars and alumni. The essays discuss the impact and significance of the original report.
The expanded second edition will also be released as a digital publication, a move that Levy hopes will expand the report’s audience.
“The open access digital format … opens up the reality of a global audience,” she said.
The University also plans on making the report a permanent fixture of undergraduate orientation at Brown and hopes to add a related year-long course sequence available to students. The course sequence was recommended by the University’s Task Force on Anti-Black Racism, according to Paxson.
The course sequence will include “one (class) on systemic racism, and one on modes of healing,” Paxson said. “It’s still in fairly early stages, and we’re hoping that it will be launched in the fall of 2023.”
“One of the things that needs to happen is to always find ways for those who are coming into the University — students, faculty and staff — to be aware of the history of the University,” Bogues said.
He hopes that conversations surrounding slavery and anti-Black racism will continue through undergraduate orientation.
“Always foregrounding the report, and the second edition in particular, will create a way of orientation for people to understand the history, and therefore understand the things that we need to do today,” Bogues said. The report “should be viewed as a living document … that becomes a touchstone as the institution continues to grow.”
In her interview in the second edition, Simmons describes opposition to commissioning the original report. The most serious opposition came from individuals “who were flung across the country, wanting to challenge what we were doing as … somehow corrupt,” she explains.
But the new report was met with “only fulsome support,” Bogues said.
“The world has shifted, and it shifted in a good way,” Paxson added. “So I haven’t had to face the scathing criticism that came President Simmons’s way when she was a trailblazer.”
The report took 18 months to complete, according to Levy. It will be formally unveiled at a University event Friday afternoon, according to a campus-wide email sent Oct. 13.
Neil Mehta is a University News section editor and design chief at The Herald. They study public health and statistics at Brown. Outside the office, you can find Neil baking and playing Tetris.