Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities

Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities

Craig Steven Wilder

Language: English

Pages: 432

ISBN: 1608194027

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A 2006 report commissioned by Brown University revealed that institution's complex and contested involvement in slavery―setting off a controversy that leapt from the ivory tower to make headlines across the country. But Brown's troubling past was far from unique. In Ebony and Ivy, Craig Steven Wilder, a leading historian of race in America, lays bare uncomfortable truths about race, slavery, and the American academy.

Many of America's revered colleges and universities―from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton to Rutgers, Williams College, and the University of North Carolina―were soaked in the sweat, the tears, and sometimes the blood of people of color. The earliest academies proclaimed their mission to Christianize the "savages" of North America and played a key role in white conquest. Later, the slave economy and higher education grew up together, each nurturing the other. Slavery funded colleges, built campuses, and paid the wages of professors. Enslaved Americans waited on faculty and students; academic leaders aggressively courted the support of slave owners and slave traders. Significantly, as Wilder shows, our leading universities were dependent on human bondage and became breeding grounds for the racist ideas that sustained it.

Ebony and Ivy is a powerful and propulsive study and the first of its kind, revealing a history of oppression behind the institutions usually considered the cradle of liberal politics.

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France, trans. John Gilmary Shea (New York: Francis P. Harper, 1900), II:55–90; J. M. Le Moine, “Jesuits’ College, Quebec,” Canadian Antiquarian and Numismatic Journal, October 1878, 58; Daniel Royot, Divided Loyalties in a Doomed Empire: The French in the West from New France to the Lewis and Clark Expedition (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2007), 20–23; A. J. Macdougall, “Classical Studies in Seventeenth-Century Quebec,” Phoenix, Spring 1952, 6–21; Samuel Eliot Morison, Samuel de

I:237. 46. In his history of the conflict, Cotton Mather praised an enslaved African for alerting the English of the Wampanoag plot. After the Wampanoag killed Thomas Willett, they captured his servant. Knowing Algonquian, the black man discovered their military plans. In July 1674 he escaped and alerted the English that the Indians were preparing to attack Taunton. “There was a special providence in that Negroes escape,” Rev. Mather wrote, without reflecting upon the moral tension created by a

5–36, Hugh Hall Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society; Elizabeth Donnan, ed., Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade to America (Washington, DC: Carnegie Institution, 1930–35), III:50; John Langdon Sibley, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts (Cambridge, MA: Charles William Sever, 1873–), IV:120–28; Ebenezer Turell, The Life and Character of the Reverend Benjamin Colman (Boston: Rogers and Fowle, 1749), esp. 53–59. 9. Sibley’s

(Boston: B. Green, 1706), 24; Georges-Louis Leclerc, Buffon’s Natural History. Containing a Theory of the Earth, a General History of Man, of the Brute Creation, and of Vegetables, Minerals, &c. (London: J. S. Barr, 1792), IV:262–63. 13. Smith, Essay on the Causes of the Variety of Complexion, 60–62; Peter Silver, Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America (New York: Norton, 2008), 116–17; Gary B. Nash, The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the

Thomas, took more than a thousand square miles of Lenape land. James Logan, also a trustee, completed the swindle by forcing the arrangement on the Lenape and securing the support of the Six Nations of the Iroquois, who also helped remove the Lenape from eastern Pennsylvania. William Allen, chief justice of the colony and a charter trustee of the Philadelphia college, got ten thousand acres of disputed lands in a single grant and eventually established Allentown in the Walking Purchase territory.

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