Reparatory justice

Regionally and internationally, there were major developments in the pursuit of reparatory justice.

Antigua and Barbuda, home of the Five Islands Campus, steered this charge through a letter, penned by Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne to Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow. The letter, a follow-up on previous correspondence from Antigua and Barbuda's Ambassador to the United States, Sir Ronald Saunders, pressed the Harvard Law School to atone for the fact that the school's success was partially due to the oppression of Antiguans enslaved by plantation owner Isaac Royall Jr. during the Colonial era. Prime Minister Browne established a direct connection to Royall Jr. who was Harvard's very first law professorship and the wealthy benefactor of the slaved-fueled sugar trade in Antigua.

“We consider Harvard's failure to acknowledge its obligations to Antigua and the stain it bears from benefiting from the blood of our people as shocking if not immoral”, said Prime Minister Browne. He stressed that Harvard should be held accountable and should compensate Antigua and Barbuda through reparations. “Reparation from Harvard would compensate for its development on the backs of our people.” Reparation is not aid; it is not a gift; it is compensation to correct the injustices of the past and restore equity. Harvard should be in the forefront of this effort.” Further, Browne maintained that reparatory compensation for Harvard should be directed to The University of the West Indies Five Islands Campus as education is essential to the development of Antigua and Barbuda.

Confronted by these historical facts presented by Ambassador Saunders and Prime Minister Browne, Harvard University extended an invitation to discuss possible collaboration.

The engagement could potentially be the genesis of a reparatory justice programme with the Five Islands Campus at the centre. Given the campus is in its infancy stage, a portion of the $5 billion budget which Harvard enjoys could fund developmental research, establish resource networks, and fund scholarships and collegial exchanges as a form of compensation for Harvard's history.

Such an opportunity is indicative of other successful regional engagements with high-profile universities including the UK-based Glasgow University. After acknowledging its role in the Scottish Slave trade, Glasgow University agreed to fund a joint centre for development with The UWI as a form of atonement for its legacy. These engagements are a result of the direct efforts by Vice-Chancellor Professor Hilary Beckles, who continues to champion reparatory justice.