Thursday, October 19, 2006

Did Ephraim Own Slaves?

Brother Spotless e-mailed the following to Brother Lightness and me earlier today:

“I wonder if Ephraim owned slaves?”

Report: Brown University should examine slavery ties
POSTED: 10:23 a.m. EDT, October 19, 2006

Brown University should invite fresh reflection of its history involving the slave trade, a panel studying the issue said Wednesday in recommending
the creation of a memorial and an academic center focused on slavery and justice.

The 17-member Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice offered several recommendations on how the university should take responsibility, including a commitment from the school to recruit and retain minority students, especially those from Africa and the West Indies.

"We cannot change the past," according to the 106-page report, released on the university's Web site. "But an institution can hold itself accountable for the past, accepting its burdens and responsibilities along with its benefits and pri

In 2003, Brown President Ruth Simmons, the first black president of an Ivy League school and a descendant of slaves herself, appointed the committee of students, faculty and administrators to study the university's centuries-old ties to the slave trade.

Brown, the nation's seventh oldest university, was formally chartered in 1764 as the College of Rhode Island. Its founder, the Rev. James Manning, freed his only slave but accepted donations from slave owners and traders, including the Brown family of Providence. One family member, Nicholas Brown Jr., is the university's namesake.

The panel said there was no question that much of the money used to create Brown and ensure its early growth came either directly or indirectly from the slave trade.

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Brother Smartness said...

I wonder if the Native American behind Ephraim in this portrait was present of his own volition or not.

Brother Spotless said...

That is true. Native Americans are often lost in the slave conversation. Probably because it was decided that Africans would make better slaves, and the Native population could then be moved or killed off. Sadly, Native Americans could argue that Europeans treated them worse than African slaves were treated.

Brother Smartness said...

Assuming that Ephraim, Jr. did in fact have slaves:

On the one hand Williams College is in the avant garde when it comes to diversity initiatives. On the other hand, I find great difficulty in reconciling this apparent dichotomy between their commitment to diversity and the history of the benefactor whose surname has become synonymous with excellence in education.

Brother Smartness said...

After a quick google search I came upon the following bill of sale from 1750:

For and in consideration of the sum of two hundred and twentyfive pounds old tenor, to me Ephraim Williams Jr. well and truly paid by Israel Williams of Hatfield, I do hereby assign, sell and convey to him a certain negro boy named Prince aged about nine years, a servant for life, and do hold him and his heirs against the claims of any person whatsoever as witness my hand this 25th day of September anno Domini 1750.
- Ephraim Williams, Jr.

Furthermore, Ephraim, Jr. left the following in his will:

“I give and bequeath to my beloved brothers my homestead at Stockbridge, with all the buildings and appurtenances thereunto belonging, with all the stock of Cattle and Negro servants now upon the place.”

Something tells me that when he says brothers he wasn't talking about those of us who write here on PGM.

Brother Darkness said...

Although that tidbit of information that you found Brother Smartness surprised me and shocked me, it did not surprise me. At Williams there is this pride that surrounds Ephraim that makes him almost "godly" in the eyes of some die-hard Williams College purests (I am not one of them). But this sheds light on something that not many people at the school or that have graduated from the school know. I think it is very important to include this in the "folklore" that surrounds our "beloved" Ephraim.

On another note...quite interesting that you found this information on the Amherst College website...