Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin Trustee.jpg

Benjamin Franklin
Portrait Painting

Benjamin Franklin was a slave owner, however, his ownership was not the only way he benefited from the institution. He gained profits from the domestic and international slave trade. As the editor of the Pennsylvania Gazette, Franklin benefited financially from the advertisements for runaway slave and slave auction advertisements paid for by slave owners and traders. The statement was correct about Franklin’s abolitionist efforts. A few months prior to his death, he wrote strongly against the institution, calling it an ‘atrocious debasement of human nature, that its very extirpation, if not performed with solicitous care, may sometimes open a source of serious evils.’ However, focusing purely on the last months of his life does not paint an accurate picture of Benjamin Franklin’s complicity within the slave trade.

The university pays tribute to Franklin's legacy in many ways, including naming a freshman dormitory in his honor. 

Pennsylvania Tax & Exoneration records serve as further proof that Benjamin Franklin owned 1 enslaved person in the years 1769 and 1774, although he is known to have owned several more:


"1 Negro"
Benjamin Franklin Tax Record
Pennsylvania Tax & Exoneration Records, 1769


"1 Negro"
Benjamin Franklin Tax Records
Pennsylvania Tax & Exoneration Records, 1774