Since 2017, undergradutes of the University of Pennsylvania have been conducting research to uncover the connections between their university and the institution of slavery. The project began with 5 members researching the university’s early founders and early faculty who owned enslaved people. Since then, the project has grown in size and scope. Students have investigated the university’s financial connections to slavery, and the scientific racism researched and taught in Penn’s early medical school. Penn’s relationship to slavery is complicated, and calls into question our understanding of ‘complicity.’ The undergraduate researchers are dedicated to learning as much as possible, and sharing it with the public. This website features student research and most recently information about the Augmented Reality Mobile App. Explore our website to learn about the project members, student publications, news coverage and more information about the project!

 

Augmented Reality App

The augmented reality (AR) tour of Penn’s campus is the first of its kind. The app guides users on a tour through Penn’s campus (though you can use the app wherever you are). Each of the six stops uses AR to illustrate different ways Penn is connected to the institution slavery and project the students' research onto the university’s campus.

Ownership

Although there is no evidence that the University of Pennsylvania owned enslaved people, tax records show that many of Penn’s founders, early trustees, and faculty owned enslaved people and profitted from their labor. 

Finances

Today, the University of Pennsylvania is one of the wealthiest universities in the United States. However, this was not always the case. In its early days, Penn needed to raise money to remain financially viable. The school’s early administrators solicited donations from some of the most prominent enslavers in the Atlantic world.

Medical School

The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine is the oldest medical school in North America. Penn medical school faculty and graduates used anatomical specimen to create medical knowledge. These studies develop the racial theories that justified slavery and created medical misconceptions that still impact people of color to this day.

Campus

The University of Pennsylvania's very first campus was located on 4th & Arch street, in a section of Philadelphia now known as “Old City.” The owner and architect of this building had ties to slavery. Although the current campus was built well after slavery was abolished, there are buildings and statues honoring slave owners.

Student Reports

The research produced by the Penn & Slavery Project is primarily conducted by undergraduate students. Their work is featured throughout the site. Click below to read the student reports in their entirety.