The story passed down for generations was that the wealthy Quaker merchant Johns Hopkins was also an abolitionist. After he died in 1873, his multi-million-dollar bequest for the university and hospital bearing his name seemed an extension of an enlightened vision. So the discovery of census records that Hopkins owned enslaved people—one in 1840, four a decade later … is shocking. Hopkins president asked Professor Martha S. Jones, an authority on African-American history, to lead continuing research about the founder’s links to slavery. We ask why it’s important.