PROVIDENCE, RI [Brown University] — For the third year in a row, new Brown undergraduates will read and discuss “Brown University’s Steering Committee Report on Slavery and Justice” as a selected text for the first readings program of the University.
Since 2006, Brown’s annual Shared Reading Initiative has introduced undergraduate students to the rigors of college life at College Hill via a shared reading experience. Over the past few years, students have read books as diverse as “The Idiot,” a novel by Elif Batuman; “My Beloved World,” a memoir by US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor; and “The New Jim Crow,” Michelle Alexander’s investigation into the close links between racial discrimination and mass incarceration in the United States.
But since 2020, the University has not strayed from the selection of its landmark report on slavery and justice. College Dean Rashid Zia said understanding Brown’s complex past can empower students to effect positive change in the future, both at the University and beyond its doors.
“This report was first named as a selection of early readings for new students entering Fall 2020 by two dozen students, and selected in March 2020 by the committee before the tragic deaths of George Floyd and countless others drew renewed attention to the continuing legacy of anti-Black violence in the United States,” Zia wrote in a message to the academic community. “As we welcome our new students to campus this fall and continue to grapple with these legacies, this critical reading serves to help our community define a shared understanding of College Hill’s place and purpose.”
The University’s landmark Slavery and Justice Report, first published in 2006, publicly confronted and documented Brown’s institutional ties to the transatlantic slave trade and his legacy of anti-black racism. Brown was one of the first higher education institutions to launch such an in-depth investigation, and others have since taken similar action: Over the past 16 years, more than 80 colleges and universities across the United States have followed in Brown’s footsteps, engaging in research, acknowledgment and atonement of institutional histories related to human servitude and racism.
This year, new students in Brown’s class of 2026 will benefit from the additional context and commentary provided in the second edition of the Slavery and Justice Report, published in the fall of 2021. The new edition features essays that offer new insights into the enduring and evolving impact of Brown’s original. report, authored by the steering committee members who co-authored the report, past and present students and faculty, and current and past Brown presidents Christina H. Paxson and Ruth J. Simmons.
After reading the Slavery and Justice Report over the summer, students will meet on Tuesday, September 6 for in-person seminars to discuss the text with a small group of their peers and a faculty facilitator or staff. The seminars coincide with Brown’s New Student Orientation, a series of opportunities that introduce newly arrived students to the University’s history, traditions, and values, as well as the rigorous academic life they will experience at Brown. .