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Harvard's complicated relationship with its Black students

Harvard is one of the Blackest Ivies. But students tell Into America that doesn't mean the school understands Blackness.

About this episode:

Although Harvard is one of the Blackest Ivy League schools, Black students still make up just 11 percent of the student body. Many Black students at Harvard experience a level of culture shock when they first arrive to such a historically white space. There’s the whiteness of the university today, but also the institution’s connection to slavery and white supremacy.

This culture shock can be doubled for Black students who trace their lineage to enslaved people in this country, often called Generational African Americans at Harvard. Even though the university has started an initiative to address and understand its ties to slavery, and has made increasing diversity on campus a priority for decades, it’s estimated that less than a third of Black students at Harvard are Generational African Americans.

But in its publicly released demographics, Harvard doesn’t distinguish between the different kinds of Blackness within the diaspora. And Black students say that’s an issue.

On this episode of Into America, Trymaine Lee speaks with three students from the African diaspora on campus: Mariah Norman, a first year who is Generational African American, Ife Adedokun, a first year whose parents immigrated from Nigeria, and Kimani Panthier, a second year whose parents immigrated from Jamaica.

The group talks about what it’s like to be Black at Harvard, and the nuances of Black identity within the diaspora on campus. They tell Trymaine how the university could better support them, and how they find community from each other.

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Find the transcript here.

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