BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Johns Hopkins University and Medicine announced Wednesday that it learned its founder was a slaveowner, which was in contrast with a longstanding narrative that Mr. Johns Hopkins was an early abolitionist.

Officials said census records show he was a slaveowner during the mid-1800s.

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“Earlier this year, through research conducted as part of the longstanding Hopkins Retrospective institutional history project, Johns Hopkins University leaders became aware of census records listing Mr. Hopkins as holding enslaved people in his Baltimore home in 1840 and 1850,” a spokesperson said. “Johns Hopkins University and Hospital – both founded after Mr. Hopkins’ death and after the Civil War — never held enslaved people.”

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“The fact that Mr. Hopkins had, at any time in his life, a direct connection to slavery – a crime against humanity that tragically persisted in the state of Maryland until 1864 – is a difficult revelation for us, as we know it will be for our community, especially for our Black faculty, students, staff, alumni and neighbors,” the university continued in a statement.

“More research is needed to develop a full understanding of Mr. Hopkins life, and many questions remain, including about the enslaved people themselves, and how these revelations relate to Mr. Hopkins’ support for the Union in the Civil War and his instructions that the Johns Hopkins Hospital established in his name should treat indigent patients regardless of race,” the statement continued. “The aspirations embedded in Mr. Hopkins’ final bequest have inspired and enriched our institutions and, at our best, fueled our promise.”

The statement continues, “Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels has asked Johns Hopkins University Professor Martha Jones, Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and Professor of History and the SNF Agora Institute, to investigate this finding and any other available records to the fullest extent possible. This will form a new and important element of our work through the ongoing Hopkins Retrospective program and other efforts to document the university’s history. Central to this effort is an invitation to our entire community and the public to participate in the process of research and truth-seeking. There will be a number of avenues for community participation in the coming days, weeks and months.”

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“We will continue this research wherever it may lead and will approach this finding — and undertake the work ahead to understand it — with rigor and an unwavering commitment to academic inquiry, open dialogue and equity,” the statement concludes.

Rachael Cardin