Our research began when a colleague brought to the university’s attention an 1850 US census return for Johns Hopkins: A “slave schedule” that attributed the ownership of four enslaved men (aged 50, 45, 25, and 18) to Hopkins. Preliminary research confirmed that the “Johns Hopkins” associated with this census return was the same person for whom the university was later named.
This evidence ran counter to the long-told story about Johns Hopkins, one that posited him as the son of a man, Samuel Hopkins, who had manumitted the family’s slaves in 1807. Johns Hopkins himself was said to have been an abolitionist and Quaker, the implication being that he opposed slavery and never owned enslaved people.
The details of the 1850 census slave schedule for Johns Hopkins have generated new research along four lines of inquiry. How had the university for so long told a story about Hopkins that did not account for his having held enslaved people? Which aspects of the Hopkins family story can be confirmed by evidence? What do we learn about Hopkins and his family when we investigate their relationship to slavery anew? And, who were the enslaved people in the Hopkins households and what can we know about their lives?
I’d read the news items and the op-ed earlier in the month when they were released. After a bit of digging I found this .pdf file that has more details about Johns Hopkins slave ownership. Interested to see what other details historical research reveals.