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Johns Hopkins Founder Owned Slaves, Disrupting Belief He Was An Abolitionist : NPR

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The founding father of Johns Hopkins College was found to be a slaveowner in contradiction to the long-held narrative that the philanthropist was an abolitionist.

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Rob Carr/Getty Pictures

The founding father of Johns Hopkins College was found to be a slaveowner in contradiction to the long-held narrative that the philanthropist was an abolitionist.

Rob Carr/Getty Pictures

Historians for Johns Hopkins College found that the founding father of the Baltimore-based faculty owned slaves, opposite to the long-held perception that the rich philanthropist was a staunch abolitionist.

Researchers Martha S. Jones and Allison Seyler made the invention after delving into beforehand undiscovered authorities census information as a part of a university-led undertaking on the college’s historical past.

The findings “complicate the understanding” the Johns Hopkins group has towards its founder, College President Ronald J. Daniels and different faculty officers wrote in an open letter Wednesday.

“It calls to thoughts not solely the darkest chapters within the historical past of our nation and our metropolis but additionally the complicated historical past of our establishments since then, and the legacies of racism and inequity we’re working collectively to confront,” the officers wrote.

The census information present Hopkins owned slaves as late as 1850. That is opposite to a long-held narrative that Hopkins’ father, motivated by his Quaker religion, freed all slaves on the household plantation by 1807, when Hopkins himself was solely a boy.

Hopkins, who was born in 1795, was the proprietor of 1 slave listed in his family in 1840 and 4 slaves listed in 1850, in accordance with the newly found census data. By the 1860 census, no slaves have been listed as being in his family. Maryland abolished slavery in 1864.

Hopkins, an entrepreneur and investor, left a $7-million bequest — on the time, the most important in U.S. historical past — after his loss of life in 1873 at age 78. The cash, which is almost $150 million in present {dollars}, was used to open a hospital, orphanage, and the college.

Amongst different issues, the premier establishment performs an important position in monitoring the worldwide COVID-19 an infection and loss of life charges in the course of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Officers stated the college plans to proceed with its Hopkins Retrospective undertaking to seek out extra details about the college’s historical past and to glean a fuller image of the founder they thought they knew.

Hopkins historical past

Hopkins’ private papers and different information have been both destroyed or misplaced way back, the college stated Wednesday. As a substitute, the college has till now primarily used Hopkins’ will, correspondence with trustees, and a brief e-book written by the benefactor’s grandniece, as historic proof.

The e-book, written by Helen Thom and revealed by the college’s press in 1929, says her nice uncle was a “sturdy abolitionist.” The e-book reiterates the story that Hopkins’ dad and mom freed all enslaved folks on their Anne Arundel plantation south of Baltimore by 1807. This act, Thom wrote, put important monetary pressure on the household. Subsequently, at age 17, Johns was compelled to depart the plantation to seek out work in Baltimore.

Nevertheless, the researchers Jones and Seyler discovered nothing to substantiate that declare. They did discover proof of a partial releasing of slaves in 1778 by Johns Hopkins’ grandfather, but additionally uncovered continued slaveholding and transactions involving enslaved folks occurring a long time later.

Jones and Seyler additionally appeared extra carefully at an 1863 letter from the Hopkins Brothers agency, a enterprise through which Johns Hopkins was a principal proprietor. The letter particulars the acceptance of a slave as collateral for a debt.

Even so, they situated a further obituary detailing Hopkins as holding “antislavery political beliefs” and as buying a slave for the aim of later releasing him.

Questions stay over the slaves that have been listed on the census types. There is no such thing as a different details about their circumstances or the character of their relationship with Johns Hopkins.

The college officers stated, “Like so many others who’ve made significant contributions to our nation’s historical past, Mr. Hopkins is a posh and contradictory particular person whose story holds inside it a number of truths.”

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