Harvard Announces Legacy of Slavery Memorial Project

Harvard University has recently announced an international open call for the development of a new memorial to enslaved people on its campus in Cambridge. The Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery (H&LS) Memorial Project Committee “invites artists, architects, designers, multi-disciplinary teams, and other creators to express their interest in conceiving a site or sites on Harvard’s Cambridge campus for commemoration and reflection, as well as for listening to and living with the University’s legacy of slavery,” according to a statement released by the University. The deadline for the application is February 20, 2024. 

In 2022, the H&LS report recommended “that the University recognize and honor the enslaved people whose labor facilitated the founding, growth, and evolution of Harvard through a permanent and imposing physical memorial, convening space, or both.” Nearly a year after the report’s release, the Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery Memorial Project Committee will lead an effort to “memorialize enslaved individuals whose labor was instrumental in the establishment and development of the University as an institution, and define what a memorial could entail, options for where it could reside, and the process for its creation.” The thirteen-member committee is co-chaired by Tracy K. Smith, professor of English and African and African American Studies and the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at Harvard Radcliffe Institute, and Dan Byers, the John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Director of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. 

The committee seeks “creative visions that activate and make visible complex dynamics, such as: permanence and vitality; honor and rebuke; ecology and the built environment; institutional interest and the common good.” Submissions will be accepted from individuals, collaborations, and teams without limitations on age, education, or career and professional status. Applications will be judged on their vision, committment to collaboration and partnership, and design expertise. Round one submissions must include team details, a portfolio, three references, and a 500-word narrative responding to the theme of reckoning and commemoration. The timeline and completion of the memorial is anticipated for the summer of 2027, and the University has budgeted approximately $4M for this project inclusive of artist fees, materials, fabrication, and construction costs. Additional funds from the H&LS $100 million endowment may be available for short and long-term planning, programming, and engagement. 

Read the Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery Memorial Request for Qualification (RFQ) and a Q&A interview with the Memorial Committee co-chairs for more information about the project.