Old College

Glasgow University, High Street

Old College, High Street. c. 1670 (after Slezar).

Glasgow University, originally situated in the heart of the city on High Street, played an active part in campaigning against slavery. Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746) studied there and his lectures, after he was appointed Professor of Moral Philosophy in 1729, provided a moral critique of slavery, which inspired abolitionists on a global scale.

His successor, Adam Smith (1723-90), attacked slavery on economic and moral grounds as the ‘vilest of all states’. In June 1788, the University presented one of the first anti-slavery petitions from the West of Scotland. Its importance in the road to emancipation is demonstrated by the career of James McCune Smith (1813-65), who became the first African American to graduate MD anywhere and was also the first to practise medicine in the USA.

Old College, High Street.

Smith was a leading member of The Glasgow Emancipation Society, which campaigned for universal emancipation. It helped fund his education, after many universities in the USA had rejected him, demonstrating Glasgow University’s long and honourable history as a place of learning for the disenfranchised and the dispossessed.