Publish University statement & report

Report recommendation: Publication of the Senior Management Group’s statement of July 2016, along with the final version of the full report "Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow" detailing the research and conclusions of the research into how the University benefited from the profits of historical slavery, and a statement describing the reparative justice actions to be undertaken by the University.

Senior Management Group's statement

Inspired by the Runaway Slaves in Britain project to gain a deeper understanding of our links to slavery, in July 2016 the Senior Management Group of the University approved and issued the following statement:

The University of Glasgow acknowledges that during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it received some gifts and bequests from persons who may have benefitted from the proceeds of slavery. Income from such gifts and bequests has been used in supporting academic activity undertaken by the students and staff of the University.

The University notes that, during the era of slavery, many of its staff adopted a clear anti-slavery position. For example, the Principal and Clerk of Senate, on behalf of the Senate of the University, petitioned the House of Commons in 1788, and again in 1792, against slave holding and slave trading; in 1791, the University honoured William Wilberforce with the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in recognition of his anti-slavery work; Adam Smith, Francis Hutcheson and John Millar all wrote against slavery in their publications; and James McCune Smith, an emancipated slave, graduated in medicine from the University of Glasgow in 1837, and, in so doing, became the first African-American in the world to graduate in medicine. Smith came to study at the University of Glasgow for this degree as he was barred from doing so in the United States because of his colour.

The Senior Management Group (SMG) of the University of Glasgow has instructed that research be undertaken and a report prepared on the University's connections with those persons who may have benefitted from the proceeds of slavery. When it receives this report, the SMG will consider the most appropriate way of acknowledging those connections.

Next steps

The University formed a History of Slavery Steering Committee (HSSC), with external consultants, and joined the international consortium of Universities Studying Slavery - the first university in the UK to do so. HSSC oversaw a year-long research process undertaken by Dr Stephen Mullen and Professor Simon Newman to:

  1. investigate the nature and extent of the financial benefits which accrued to the University as a result of historical racial slavery.
  2. recommend possible acts of reparative justice designed to acknowledge this history and engage in the kinds of reparative justice most appropriate to a university based on Enlightenment ideals of truth and justice.
  3. draft a report for publication, summarising the complicated relationship between the University and the history of racial slavery, and the actions the University proposes to take going forward.

Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow

The report "Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow", co-authored by Professor Simon Newman and Dr Stephen Mullen, was published in September 2018, receiving widespread publicity in the press and attracting considerable interest within the University.

Professor Simon Newman said: “The University of Glasgow has made history in the UK today by acknowledging that alongside its proud history of abolitionism is an equally significant history of financially benefitting from racial slavery. In doing this, Glasgow follows in the footsteps of leading American universities which have confronted the role of slavery in their histories.

"It is a decision rooted in the core values of an educational institution dedicated to the pursuit of truth and social justice."

“The University of Glasgow is an institution that grew in a city tied to the trade in tobacco, sugar and cotton, all of which were initially produced by enslaved Africans. Launching an in-depth investigation to look at how the University might have benefited from the profits of racial slavery was, in my opinion, a brave decision. But it is a decision rooted in the core values of an educational institution dedicated to the pursuit of truth and social justice.

“I am delighted that we have acknowledged our past, albeit indirect, ties to racial slavery and been inspired to develop new and exciting opportunities and collaborations for students and academics alike as part of a rolling programme of reparative justice.”

One of the three external advisors to the slavery report was Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI); along with Professor Sir Geoff Palmer, a leading civil rights and equality campaigner and Graham Campbell, a Glasgow City Council councillor and an activist for African-Caribbean issues in Scotland.

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles said: “I have looked closely at the report, reading it within the context of the University of Glasgow-University of the West Indies framework for mutual recognition and respect.

“The approach adopted by the University of Glasgow is commendable and is endorsed by the UWI as an excellent place to begin. Both universities are committed to excellent and ethical research, teaching and public service.

“I celebrate colleagues in Glasgow for taking these first steps and keenly anticipate working through next steps.”