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Reaffirming our commitments to inclusion, diversity, anti-racism, and equity following a difficult revelation


Dear Colleagues and Friends,

I am sure you are as troubled as I am by the news of compelling evidence from government census records that the University’s founder, Mr. Johns Hopkins, held one enslaved person in his household in 1840 and four enslaved people in 1850.

This new information is a difficult revelation for all of us, especially given our longstanding belief that Johns Hopkins was a staunch abolitionist. Indeed, as pointed out in the letter from the University, Mr. Hopkins was thought to have been ahead of his time, having directed that the hospital he founded extend care to include the indigent of Baltimore regardless of sex, age, or race. Further, he called upon his trustees to create an orphanage for Black children in Baltimore.

This news is disappointing and unsettling to the Hopkins community and Baltimore as well. Developing a more complete understanding of this history will be difficult and take time. I strongly encourage you to participate in the ensuing discussions as we grapple with the implications. The first is a virtual town hall this Friday that will be facilitated by Katrina Caldwell, vice provost for Diversity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer. You will have the opportunity to hear from Martha Jones, Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and professor of History and the SNF Agora Institute, who has led the research into this new information at the university’s request, along with Allison Seyler, program manager of Hopkins Retrospective.

As a School, we must acknowledge the difficult aspects of our own history and reaffirm and act on our commitments to inclusion, diversity, anti-racism, and equity (IDARE). It is our solemn responsibility to not only acknowledge the legacies of racism and inequity but also dismantle structural racism and actively embrace anti-racism in all we do.

We are making progress in this regard through the establishment of our School’s Office of IDARE and a related taskforce as well as the commitment of our departments to identify and support a faculty or staff member to provide leadership and accountability for IDARE practices. An IDARE action plan for the School will be published next month; it will outline our strategic priorities for inclusive excellence and anti-racism.

In recognition of this sobering moment in our history, I would also like to announce the establishment of a new fund, to be launched early next year, to support teams of faculty, staff, and students for scholarly work on the impact of racism on health and health outcomes. This fund will support small grants for the generation of new knowledge and the translation of that knowledge into action that addresses the societal challenges caused by our legacy of racism and inequity.

I will personally contribute funds from my own discretionary account to jumpstart the fund and ask departments and individuals to consider contributing to the fund so that over time we can commit to funding three to five awards per year. The School will match these contributions in 2021. I am asking Keshia M. Pollack Porter and Joel Bolling to chair a committee that will further develop the details of the fund.

And if you have not already, I also urge you to check the latest issue of our Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health Magazine to read about some of the many ways our School is addressing racism as a public health crisis.

Let me close by reaffirming our commitment to support all members of our School community across identities and ideologies. Now is the opportunity to create the history we will want our era to be known for—one in which we confront and dismantle oppression, racism, and inequity within our community and across our work, improving health and well-being for all.

My fervent hope for a brighter future,

Ellen MacKenzie Signature

Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75

Bloomberg Distinguished Professor