MIT history professor Craig Wilder's Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities will be appearing from Bloomsbury on September 17. Cribbing now from the Press' website:
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 rising star in the profession of history, 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 UNC—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, dependent on human bondage, became breeding grounds for the racist ideas that sustained them.
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.
I heard Wilder present part of this book a few years back and it was terrific and new. Constitution Day 2013 is shaping up to be a very exciting day!
Update: I now see that books.google has a preview up already. The beautifully written introduction begins with Henry Watson, Jr., who came to Greensboro Alabama from Connecticut as a tutor in 1830, where he trucked with Reverend Thomas Witherspoon -- then returned a few years later as a lawyer. Witherspoon -- who's remotely related to Reese Witherspoon -- freed several dozen slaves when he passed away. Watson made a fortune as a lawyer and businessman in Greensboro. Stephen Davis and I talk about both of those men in our article on probate in Greene County. Can't wait to read the whole book!
Update 2: Here's a link to Wilder's interview on After Words on CSPAN.
Update 4: Here's a link to Jennifer Schuessler's article in the New York Times on Ebony and Ivy and the movement on many campuses to study their connections to slavery. There's something to say about proslavery thought on the University of Alabama's campus, as well as the faculty senate's apology back in 2004.