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University reveals Johns Hopkins was a slave owner

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  • Tip Bones

Researchers have revealed that they uncovered information through government census records that John Hopkins (of Johns Hopkins University) was a slave owner. This comes as a blow to the university which has prided itself on the narrative that Hopkins and his family were abolitionists and that his father set slaves free in 1807. President of the university Ronald J Daniels and other officials wrote a letter to the Johns Hopkins community stating, "We now have government census records that state Mr. Hopkins was the owner of one enslaved person listed in his household in 1840 and four enslaved people listed in 1850... By the 1860 census, there are no enslaved persons listed in the household."

Officials say they are going to continue to investigate Hopkins' life to "have a full picture" given the fact that there is no current biography of the university's founder. Hopkins died in 1873 and donated what is considered to be the largest philanthropic gift to the US, $7 million to open an orphanage, a university, and a hospital. Now, the school is one of the most prestigious medical universities in the world with roughly 27,000 students and their researchers have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 response since the pandemic hit the US. the officials said they decided to share the information they found "to deepen our historical understanding of the legacy of racism in our country, our city, and our institutions."

Martha S Jones, a history professor at Hopkins, wrote an opinion article about the information that has come to light. She stated, "This year, so many of us at Johns Hopkins have taken pride in being affiliated with our colleagues in medicine and public health who have brilliantly confronted the coronavirus pandemic... That pride, for me, now mixes with bitterness. Our university was the gift of a man who traded in the liberty and dignity of other men and women."

Jones and another researcher had looked into the narrative of Hopkins being an abolitionist but found no evidence supporting the claim. School officials wrote, "They have been unable to document the story of Johns Hopkins' parents freeing enslaved people in 1807, but they have found a partial freeing of enslaved people in 1778 but Johns Hopkins' grandfather, and also continued slaveholding and transactions involving enslaved persons for decades thereafter."