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Researchers Selected To Document History And Legacy of Slavery in Boston

The selected research teams will produce a comprehensive report documenting City’s role in and ties to the transatlantic slave trade and institution of slavery, helping complete the first phase of the Task Force’s work and building the foundation for the Task Force’s recommendations on local reparations.

Mayor Michelle Wu and the City of Boston Reparations Task Force today announced the two teams of historians selected to research and document the City of Boston’s role in and historical ties to the transatlantic slave trade and the institution and legacies of slavery. Research teams will conduct both original historical research and provide a comprehensive review of major themes and findings on the City’s history from 1620 to the present. This announcement follows the City and Task Force’s release of a request for proposals (RFP) seeking researchers to study the history and legacy of slavery in Boston last September. A budget totaling $500,000 has been allocated to support the comprehensive research effort, which will culminate in a detailed written report. Funding to support this research will be sustained by federal relief funds and the City’s annual operating budget.

Awardees and the Task Force will be present for the next Reparations Task Force public meeting on Tuesday, February 6th from 6:30-8:00 p.m. More details (including opportunity for public comment) for the meeting will be available on

“I’m grateful to these teams of historians who will serve our city by documenting Boston’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the myriad legacies of slavery that continue to impact the daily lives of our city’s communities,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Through their scholarship and partnership with our task force, we will better understand the full picture of our city’s history and look forward to their comprehensive report that will build on our ongoing efforts.” 

The City of Boston is awarding contracts to the following teams:

  • Dr. Kerri Greenidge, Mellon Associate Professor in Studies of Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora, Tufts University; Dr. Kendra Field, Director of the Study of Race and Democracy and Associate Professor of History, Tufts University; and Kyera Singleton, Executive Director of the Royall House and Slave Quarters and their team will cover 1620 to 1940 (Units of Study 1-5).
  • A coalition from Northeastern University led by Margaret Burnham, University Distinguished Professor and Director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, and Dr. Deborah Jackson, Managing Director of the Center for Law, Equity, and Race; and composed of a team including (but not limited to) Dr. Ted Landsmark, Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs;, community leader Donna Bivens, and Richard O’Bryant, Director of the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute; will cover 1940 to the present (Unit of Study 6).

Awardees were selected following a comprehensive Request for Proposals process, including interviews and rigorous evaluations by a committee of both Task Force members and City staff. Candidates were evaluated based not only on the quality of their proposals, but also their dedication to Boston’s history both professionally and personally, demonstrated expertise within a specific time period, proficiency with community-engaged historical methods, and a commitment to transformative and restorative approaches to historical narrative. 

In addition to their writing and research work, selected research partners will present updates about their findings throughout the research process, with the opportunity for community members to engage with their ongoing work. 

“The research team of the African American Trail Project at Tufts University, in partnership with the Royall House and Slave Quarters, is excited to work with Northeastern University and the Boston Mayor's Office to produce a report on slavery and its legacies in the city,” said Dr. Kerri Greenidge, Mellon Associate Professor in Studies of Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora. “We believe that understanding the city's history is essential to building a more just and equitable Boston for all.”

“Our City’s leaders have opened up a vital opportunity for those who live and work here to learn about how slavery and its wide-ranging aftermath have impacted our common history as well as our unique experiences,” said Margaret Burnham, University Distinguished Professor and Director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project.  “Our team at Northeastern University looks forward with great enthusiasm to providing research support.  Our work will, we hope, both inform the mission of the Reparations Task Force and offer insights into these past events for constituencies across the city.”

The selection marks the first significant step towards completing the work of the Reparations Task Force, as obligated by the Ordinance passed on December 22, 2022. Partners are expected to complete their work with the Task Force within one year. The resulting report produced by the selected researchers will directly inform the Task Force’s recommendations for next steps towards truth, reconciliation, and reparations addressing the City of Boston’s historical involvement in the slave trade and the institution and legacies of slavery.

“The Reparations Task Force and the City of Boston are now prepared to examine the historical and current day impacts of slavery in the City of Boston”, said Joseph D. Feaster, Jr., Chair of the Reparations Task Force. “With the selection of our distinguished researchers to provide the underpinnings for our examination of the issue, I am confident that the Reparations Task Force, in collaboration with the community, will be able to present thoughtful and cogent recommendations on the City of Boston’s reparations response.”

“Boston is on trial to redress historical injustices that flow directly and indirectly from the institution of chattel slavery, and the examination of the truth and expansion of the narrative that  will give us that evidentiary pool from which to argue for repair,” said L’Merchie Frazier, Member of the Reparations Task Force. “Speaking as a member of the evaluation team from the Task Force, we strove to select the most competent researchers to frame this complicated history from an archival basis of truth and fact. I am certain that these teams will provide the critical information, across centuries of study, that will elucidate claims of individuals and their descendants as direct victims of the injustice of slavery; and, with the community, enable the Task Force to form our recommendations for local reparative justice.”

“At such a critical time in the city and nation, this historic milestone will define our pathway forward toward racial justice, truth and reconciliation that is centuries overdue,” said Lori Nelson, Senior Advisor for Racial Justice. “I commend the members of the Task Force and the resilience of Black community  to ensure that we are authentic in our work toward preserving history, acknowledging harms, and repairing lives.”

The City of Boston established the Reparations Task Force in accordance with a 2022 City Ordinance to study the impact of slavery in Boston. Members of the task force were announced in February 2023. The members are as follows:

  • Chair Joseph D. Feaster, Jr., Esq., Attorney, former President of the Boston branch of the NAACP, current member of City’s Black Men & Boys Commission
  • Denilson Fanfan, 12th grader at Jeremiah E. Burke High School
  • L’Merchie Frazier, Public historian, visual activist, and Executive Director of Creative and Strategic Partnerships for SPOKE Arts
  • George “Chip” Greenidge, Jr., Founder and Director of Greatest MINDS
  • Dorothea Jones, Longtime civic organizer and member of the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee
  • Carrie Mays, UMass Boston student and youth leader with Teen Empowerment 
  • Na’tisha Mills, Program Manager for Embrace Boston 
  • Damani Williams, 12th grader at Jeremiah E. Burke High School

For more information about the City’s ongoing work regarding reparations, please visit

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