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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 trut 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.


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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 trut 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.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Wexelbaum

    The title of this book grabbed me. I thought it would be about contemporary discourse on race and slavery in the United States, but actually it's about how all the founders of North American universities established in colonial times were all New Englanders who were slave traders and slave owners. Slaves built these early universities, slaves worked there instead of hired administrative assistants, cooks, laborers, and maintenance people...and slaves were abused by the students at these institut The title of this book grabbed me. I thought it would be about contemporary discourse on race and slavery in the United States, but actually it's about how all the founders of North American universities established in colonial times were all New Englanders who were slave traders and slave owners. Slaves built these early universities, slaves worked there instead of hired administrative assistants, cooks, laborers, and maintenance people...and slaves were abused by the students at these institutions. Harvard was originally built as an "Indian school", to train "the smartest" Native Americans to become teachers and missionaries in order to infiltrate and destroy traditional Native American cultures, but very few actually graduated because they often died in the dormitories from illness or abuse. I am less shocked over the founding fathers' arrogant belief in their racial superiority than I am over the fact that these New Englanders, who cried for liberty or death, who established so many abolitionist movements, were the wealthiest slave traders and plantation owners going. Many owned plantations in the Caribbean as well as their property in the North, and most of their slaves lived on the plantations. White New Englanders--not African-Americans--were the first to start the "Back to Africa" movement, because they did not want people of color, free or otherwise, living in their colonies (later to become states). And by the way, it was legal to own slaves in Connecticut up til 1860. For Northern children who read history textbooks about the North being morally superior to the South and fighting against slavery, this book will especially rock your worlds. The author, a history professor from MIT, did some excellent research...the college and university archives hold a lot of dark secrets, which are now coming to light in this book. There is a lot that we have to answer for and correct in the American higher education system...our work is not yet done.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Fitzpatrick

    This is one of the worst written history books I've ever read. I really pushed myself to keep readings since America's history of slavery is a topic I am very interested in. But after 50 pages I had to throw in the towel. First, the author ranges far from his original topic. I expected the whole of the book to be about American colleges and the direct ways in which those institutions benefited from and contributed to the system of African slavery. The vast majority of the book, however, is not a This is one of the worst written history books I've ever read. I really pushed myself to keep readings since America's history of slavery is a topic I am very interested in. But after 50 pages I had to throw in the towel. First, the author ranges far from his original topic. I expected the whole of the book to be about American colleges and the direct ways in which those institutions benefited from and contributed to the system of African slavery. The vast majority of the book, however, is not about this relationship specifically, but talks about this history of the treatment of African and Indian slaves in the Americas. In its first chapter the book ranges from Puritan attitudes toward Indians to prominent slaver families to random slave rebellions. There are a few paragraphs on the Indian colleges at Harvard and at William & Mary, but that's the only part that addresses universities at all. Second, there are so many vague statements that I spent less time writing down facts and more time writing down questions to look up later. At the very beginning of chapter one, on page 18, we learn that "Dominican priests organized the Universidad de Santo Tomas de Aquino, the first college in the Americas." In what year? In what modern day nation? It says Santa Domingo in parentheses but should I just assume that is the one in the Dominican Republic? Then on the very next page, "By the time of the expulsion of the Society of Jesus from Spanish America, the college were ranked among the largest slaveholders in America." ONE of the largest? So like in the top ten? Top three? How many slaves are we talking about? But maybe that was just the first chapter and it gets better later. No. In chapter two, "The number of black people in New York City had doubled to more than fifteen hundred between the end of Royal African's monopoly and the launch of Captain Farmar's first slaving voyage." Really??? Those briefly mentioned dates were so important that I was supposed to commit them to memory? Now I'm supposed to skim back through several pages on a hunt for dates in order to decode this statement - I don't think so! Then on page 60, after discussing the 1741 NYC slave uprising in incoherent fragments, we learn that several slaves were killed along with some white people, and other white people were expelled. There was no prior mention of white people being suspected. Who were they? What were they accused of? I give up. I was really looking forward to this book and I'm bitter to find it unreadable and unreliable.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Leigh

    The basic thesis of the book is simple but has been largely ignored - that American colleges and universities benefited from the slave economy and the conquest of Indian lands. Many northern institutions, especially the "Ivy League" schools not only benefitted from slavery but actively promoted and defended the vile institution. I found quite interesting the section on how once slavery was abolished or no long acceptable to much of the population, focus in the academies shifted to a "scientific" The basic thesis of the book is simple but has been largely ignored - that American colleges and universities benefited from the slave economy and the conquest of Indian lands. Many northern institutions, especially the "Ivy League" schools not only benefitted from slavery but actively promoted and defended the vile institution. I found quite interesting the section on how once slavery was abolished or no long acceptable to much of the population, focus in the academies shifted to a "scientific" defense of racial segregation and a witch hunt of professors who argued for racial equality and/or abolitionism. The book serves an excellent warning of how theological, academic and government institutions can be as small-minded and biassed as any part of society - perhaps just using larger words!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    An important contribution the the historiography of the US and European university, Ebony and Ivy locates higher education institutions as both important spaces of class formation for the settler colonialist and plantocratic aristocracies, and also as themselves agents in and beneficiaries of slavery and genocide. William and Mary was a concentration camp for indigenous people, and the ivies, all of them, fattened their endowments on the labor of enslaved Africans, many of whom toiled on plantat An important contribution the the historiography of the US and European university, Ebony and Ivy locates higher education institutions as both important spaces of class formation for the settler colonialist and plantocratic aristocracies, and also as themselves agents in and beneficiaries of slavery and genocide. William and Mary was a concentration camp for indigenous people, and the ivies, all of them, fattened their endowments on the labor of enslaved Africans, many of whom toiled on plantations directly owned by the universities. Universities contributed to and benefited from the transatlantic slave trade; they were deeply interested in the financial bounty extracted from the subjugation of and speculation upon enslaved black bodies. The forms of knowledge they produced, the successive modes of 19th century racial science in particular were, Wilder argues persuasively, a direct product of this intimate relationship, and the historical legacy of racialized labor exploitation and genocide continues to haunt, and profit, the contemporary university. Highly recommended for anyone interested in universities, race, labor, and empire.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    I want to give this book more stars because I honestly learned so much from it. However, like many other reviewers, I feel like some topics discussed in this book did not necessarily add to the overall thesis. Nevertheless, I think this book should be a required reader more often because the overarching topic is VERY relevant to current discourse surrounding American universities and their ties to slavery.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Meticulously researched and well documented with 100+ pages of end notes, this book traces the early development of US colleges and universities which was fully underwritten and supported by the founders participation in African and native American slavery. The book closes by describing the later efforts of university leadership to rewrite this history (fake news!), leading to the vast ignorance about these facts that we have to this day. This should be required reading for anyone interested in Meticulously researched and well documented with 100+ pages of end notes, this book traces the early development of US colleges and universities which was fully underwritten and supported by the founders participation in African and native American slavery. The book closes by describing the later efforts of university leadership to rewrite this history (fake news!), leading to the vast ignorance about these facts that we have to this day. This should be required reading for anyone interested in US history as well as anyone wishing to understand the underpinnings of the very problems the US is still grappling with to this day.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    This is a fascinating book. Its early chapters reveal something that seems obvious after reading it - colleges and universities in the United States share a structure and approach to learning that is deeply embedded in slavery and the slave trade. Yet I had never considered how tangled education and enslavement were, and it changed things immeasurably for me to consider that. Later chapters delve into the development of American race "science" and white supremacy, and these trod on ground that wa This is a fascinating book. Its early chapters reveal something that seems obvious after reading it - colleges and universities in the United States share a structure and approach to learning that is deeply embedded in slavery and the slave trade. Yet I had never considered how tangled education and enslavement were, and it changed things immeasurably for me to consider that. Later chapters delve into the development of American race "science" and white supremacy, and these trod on ground that was more familiar to me. But I will treasure this book for shifting my perspective on higher education dramatically.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bookish

    Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities was an excellent and comprehensive read. It gave me the fresh angle of education from which to learn more about the colonial to antebellum American history of slavery, indigenous land theft, and the views of the time on enslaved and free Africans, African Americans, and indigenous peoples. While I started the book expecting a detailed diagram of sorts linking the ivy's - Harvard, Yale etc - to the apparatus of the i Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities was an excellent and comprehensive read. It gave me the fresh angle of education from which to learn more about the colonial to antebellum American history of slavery, indigenous land theft, and the views of the time on enslaved and free Africans, African Americans, and indigenous peoples. While I started the book expecting a detailed diagram of sorts linking the ivy's - Harvard, Yale etc - to the apparatus of the institution which was American slavery, I have to say I had no conception of exactly how deep this sordid relationship went. The more I read about this part of American history - its start in the 1600s and the following centuries - the more I learn about how much the owning of another human being and the people responsible for all of it - from the Joe and Mary Blogg slave owners to the reverends, ministers and their flocks, to the plantation owners to the insurers, merchants, captains, and slave traders to the academics with their 'race' theories to the College trustees, presidents, and students - had come to embrace these views and rationales into the fabric of their daily lives and their country. And also, how these views have continued to reverberate down the generations, informing the America and the Americans we see today. After all, how could it not? I don't believe there is a on/off button with history and this book is one example of how we can trace back the repercussions of the behemoth that was American slavery. Using the colonial and post Revolution college and academy as a focus point also gave me important insight into the role of Christianity in slavery, conversion in missionary work, and the abolition vs. removal movement. The all consuming greed, the moral philosophizing and rationalizing, the vitriol, the fear of being written into history with what they had done - all of this makes for good but exhausting reading. The concluding paragraph of the final chapter had this to say: In the decades before the civil war, American scholars claimed a new public role as the racial guardians of the United States. They interpreted race science into national social policy to construct the biological basis of citizenship and to assert that the very presence of nonwhite and non-Christian peoples threatened the republic. They laid the intellectual foundations for a century of exclusion and removal campaigns. The intellectual roots of the cyclical political and social assaults upon Native Americans, Jews, Irish, and Asians can be traced back to this scholarly obsession with race" To end, I will say I am glad to have finished this. You'll feel like you need a hot shower and a mental break afterwards to process the inhumanity of what you've read but its worth it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lance Eaton

    Wilder takes on the historical and economic connections between slavery and many of the founding higher educational institutes in the United States from the 1600s to the 1800s. Within it, he traces the direct and indirect ways that such institutions participated, promoted, and benefited from slavery. It is a dry read at times, but a very telling one indeed. When we have discussions about race and racism and the long-lasting effects, we often look directly to the African American community, but w Wilder takes on the historical and economic connections between slavery and many of the founding higher educational institutes in the United States from the 1600s to the 1800s. Within it, he traces the direct and indirect ways that such institutions participated, promoted, and benefited from slavery. It is a dry read at times, but a very telling one indeed. When we have discussions about race and racism and the long-lasting effects, we often look directly to the African American community, but we rarely recognize that beyond the negative effects on this population, it's clear that white institutions such as higher education flourished and became richer as a direct result of participating in slavery in various ways. Wilder paints this in vivid detail leaving no doubt that the Ivy Walls were held together in part with blood from slaves. It's a challenging view to accept and realize just how deeply entrenched slavery was in our society and how the animosity created through it still permeate our society. I'm speaking now in light of the massacre at the historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina--though I have little doubt that by the time you read this--there will be some other more recent and racially-laden event. If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other reviews and writings at By Any Other Nerd /

  10. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    In the decades before the American Revolution...Slaveholders became college presidents. The wealth of traders determined the locations and decided the fates of colonial schools. Profits from the sale and purchase of human beings paid for campuses and swelled college trusts. And the politics of the campus conformed to the presence and demands of slave-holding students as colleges aggressively cultivated a social environment attractive to the sons of wealth families" (p. 77) Ebony and Ivy tells the In the decades before the American Revolution...Slaveholders became college presidents. The wealth of traders determined the locations and decided the fates of colonial schools. Profits from the sale and purchase of human beings paid for campuses and swelled college trusts. And the politics of the campus conformed to the presence and demands of slave-holding students as colleges aggressively cultivated a social environment attractive to the sons of wealth families" (p. 77) Ebony and Ivy tells the story of slavery and the early history of American higher education. Wilder's argument is summed up in the above quote. You cannot separate the two institutions; they are intimately intertwined. Overall, the book is filled examples and facts confirming Wilder's thesis. It is an illuminating read that resonates on today's campus in light of the #BLM and other similar movements. This book is a stark reminder of the scope and reach of slavery. My only quibble with the book is the writing. At times, it felt like reading a series of facts and names strung together. There didn't always seem to be a coherent structure, especially in Part I. The narrative is better in Part II. I would still recommend the book for people interested in the history of higher education.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sirad

    "The problem of slavery in the antebellum North, like the problem of slavery at Harvard, could not be solved by rhetoric or emotion. It was located in the entangled economices, histories, institutions, and lineages of the South, the free states, Europe, the Caribbean, and Africa. It was a problem so ugly and so personal that it invited dishonesty" (283) Ebony and Ivy takes into account how vastly early American colleges and universities profited from the cruel mistreatment of Black slaves during "The problem of slavery in the antebellum North, like the problem of slavery at Harvard, could not be solved by rhetoric or emotion. It was located in the entangled economices, histories, institutions, and lineages of the South, the free states, Europe, the Caribbean, and Africa. It was a problem so ugly and so personal that it invited dishonesty" (283) Ebony and Ivy takes into account how vastly early American colleges and universities profited from the cruel mistreatment of Black slaves during the 18th and 19th century. The transitions between subsections were greatly disconnected, but that did not take too much away from the modus operandi that was capitally researched. Wilder presented ten years worth of analysis in a manner that left me in awe at the extent in which universities such as Princeton, Yale, and Williams were at the forefront of movements that were adamantly racialized—including the American Colonization Society (ACS). Implicitly, this book gave me great insight into how such atrocities from less than two centuries could boil over to our so-called "post-racial" society.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kilian Metcalf

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I found this book profoundly disturbing. I grew up with a vague sense that the north was always anti-slavery, and the south pro-slavery. Instead, north and south were willing to benefit from the free labor of enslaved peoples. In addition to slavery, Wilder addresses the racist attitudes toward Native Americans. The book wanders a bit, and is a bit dry in places. In spite of this, the information is worth acquiring. My misconceptions about the ivy league schools makes me wonder about what is hap I found this book profoundly disturbing. I grew up with a vague sense that the north was always anti-slavery, and the south pro-slavery. Instead, north and south were willing to benefit from the free labor of enslaved peoples. In addition to slavery, Wilder addresses the racist attitudes toward Native Americans. The book wanders a bit, and is a bit dry in places. In spite of this, the information is worth acquiring. My misconceptions about the ivy league schools makes me wonder about what is happening on campuses today that we will shake our heads at in time to come. Another element of surprise is that the author, an African-American, is able to be so dispassionate and detached about the history he has uncovered. I'd be blind with rage, but he is very cool and simply presents the facts. I think it is this very detachment that leads to some of the dry tone. Sometimes I wonder that any black person is able to overcome the knowledge of the history of abuse. If I were black, I don't think I'd even talk to a white person, much less become friends.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sergio Munoz

    I'm reading some of the posts from Anglo critics of this book and I think they may not understand how to read this book. I did a 10 part radio series on this book and I can assure you that it is an important read and also an extremely well written work. I believe that it got deeper and deeper as it went along which is the exact opposite of most academic works which start off strong and then get light. At around the 3rd quarter of Ebony & Ivy, Dr Wilder begins to unravel the historical facts arou I'm reading some of the posts from Anglo critics of this book and I think they may not understand how to read this book. I did a 10 part radio series on this book and I can assure you that it is an important read and also an extremely well written work. I believe that it got deeper and deeper as it went along which is the exact opposite of most academic works which start off strong and then get light. At around the 3rd quarter of Ebony & Ivy, Dr Wilder begins to unravel the historical facts around the European obsession with "race" "science" and grave robbing and how the African penis became a trophy for Anglo "academics" who testified that women could birth dark skinned babies by having black ink fall into their shoes. Or how complexion becomes an animated method of communication for subhuman Europeans. Seems to me that the negative reviews on goodreads might have more to do with ancestral culpability or a fundamental misunderstanding of the malicious character of the Europeans.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    The writing of this book was much like many history books and is not my favorite style to read. The book was filled with many details that detracted from my understanding of the points the author was trying make. It felt repetitive and made me often lose interest. I wanted more depth or different consideration in regard to the main thesis. That is, unfortunately, before reading this book, I assumed that the wealthy, white founders and administration of many higher education institutions gained t The writing of this book was much like many history books and is not my favorite style to read. The book was filled with many details that detracted from my understanding of the points the author was trying make. It felt repetitive and made me often lose interest. I wanted more depth or different consideration in regard to the main thesis. That is, unfortunately, before reading this book, I assumed that the wealthy, white founders and administration of many higher education institutions gained their wealth through the effects of slavery and that they weren't removed from the racism in their times. The book gives the details of who was involved and to what extent. It is troubling to think about that history and how it relates to wealth and cultures of colleges and universities today, but the author did not push me to consider it further and connect it to now as much as I would have liked.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Urbanski

    The intersection of race, slavery, and American universities is filled with traffic. Native Americans, black Africans, and white Europeans - in Britain and especially in its American colonies - play out in a drama that defines the story of higher education in America. Remove efforts to both Christianize and eradicate Native Americans, the wealth of the African slave trade, and the academic arenas in which to debate the arrangement of race, and this drama has a very different script. Craig Wilder The intersection of race, slavery, and American universities is filled with traffic. Native Americans, black Africans, and white Europeans - in Britain and especially in its American colonies - play out in a drama that defines the story of higher education in America. Remove efforts to both Christianize and eradicate Native Americans, the wealth of the African slave trade, and the academic arenas in which to debate the arrangement of race, and this drama has a very different script. Craig Wilder's illustration of academics attempting to scientifically delineate racial differences is a gut punch. The American Colonization Society and corresponding back to Africa movements are also discussed in length. These topics, ever difficult to consider and digest, cannot be unwoven from the fabric of American universities, according to Wilder.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Craig Amason

    This historical study is one of the best documented and well researched books I have ever read. Wilder provides a mountain of evidence to demonstrate the deep connections between the institution of slavery and the development of American society and culture, especially in the area of academia. As we encounter the founding fathers of both the nation and its colleges and universities, we are forced to recognize the overwhelming disconnect between the pursuit of freedom and independence by white pe This historical study is one of the best documented and well researched books I have ever read. Wilder provides a mountain of evidence to demonstrate the deep connections between the institution of slavery and the development of American society and culture, especially in the area of academia. As we encounter the founding fathers of both the nation and its colleges and universities, we are forced to recognize the overwhelming disconnect between the pursuit of freedom and independence by white people who were building an empire through the forced labor of Africans and the eradication of native inhabitants. For those who think the legacy of slavery only stains the southern states, this book is required reading. "In short, the American academy never stood apart from American slavery -- it stood beside church and state as the third pillar of a civilization built on bondage."

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    The pun in the title was too good for the author to pass up, but it's rather misleading. I was expecting a book that traced the culture of slaveholding from the foundation of ivy league institutions in the 1700's through the present day legacy of discrimination, affirmative action, and the aftermath of Brown v. Board. Instead, this book focuses almost exclusively on the 18th century and can be summed up with the sentence, "Early American colleges were founded by wealthy slaveowners, exploited In The pun in the title was too good for the author to pass up, but it's rather misleading. I was expecting a book that traced the culture of slaveholding from the foundation of ivy league institutions in the 1700's through the present day legacy of discrimination, affirmative action, and the aftermath of Brown v. Board. Instead, this book focuses almost exclusively on the 18th century and can be summed up with the sentence, "Early American colleges were founded by wealthy slaveowners, exploited Indian and African slave labor, and ensured generations of educated, privileged white Americans to whom slavery was not only accepted, but necessary."

  18. 4 out of 5

    James Peavler

    I am currently reserving judgement on this book because I have not been able to finish it. As obviously well researched as it is, I am finding it difficult to read because the author's train of thought jumps so quickly from one subject to the next that I find myself rereading passages, thinking that I missed something. I needed a bit of a break and hopefully will be able to revisit it soon.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    One of the most devastating books I have ever read. As other readers have noted, there should be stars off for the herky-jerky writing style. But the content is so well-presented, and he knows exactly how to drive in the knife, with names and stories beloved among all us academic products.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Brilliant. To be found within the pages the influence of the Scottish Enlightenment on the growth and justification of slavery. Not so enlightened after all.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sabra

    The book was obviously well-researched, but it was a difficult read. The author did a lot of jumping around from topic to topic, and tended to do data dumps without giving context.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    Some good aha moments sprinkled here and there, but largely this was just one long litany of Harvard and Princeton alums and the years they graduated without any satisfying synthesis.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    An aptly named book. So many details were shared. Lots to think about.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tony Lindsay

    Traditionally, institutions of higher learning have been thought of as the locus of enlightened thinking that benefited all mankind. When thinking of the origin of universities, one envisions Plato teaching scribes of justice, equality, and philosophical doctrines that benefit humanity; this is not the history that Craig Steven Wilder offers in his comprehensive history of America’s universities, ‘Ebony & Ivy’ – Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities. The institutions Traditionally, institutions of higher learning have been thought of as the locus of enlightened thinking that benefited all mankind. When thinking of the origin of universities, one envisions Plato teaching scribes of justice, equality, and philosophical doctrines that benefit humanity; this is not the history that Craig Steven Wilder offers in his comprehensive history of America’s universities, ‘Ebony & Ivy’ – Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities. The institutions of higher learning presented in his work do not benefit all mankind. American university history is troubled; Wilder presents these unsettling historical facts in an academic manner, stated without emotion or exclamation points, but to the non-academic (and perhaps some academics) the facts are shocking. Wilder, “Dr. Josesph Lewis, a personal physician to President Eleazar Wheelock (Dartmouth), peeled the skin from the body of a deceased black man named Cato and boiled the corpse in a kettle to free the skeleton for study. He took Cato’s skin to be tanned at the shop that served college, then used it to dress his instrument case.” This is characteristic of the harsh brutality that people of color faced while American colleges and universities were being established. What becomes painfully apparent in the text is that these institutions were built through the purposeful dehumanization of people of color: America’s First People and Africans. The Nation’s colonial schools were founded by the British to educate the First Peoples and thereby spread Christianity: however, these initial goals became the tools used in the destruction of America’s First People, “The first five colleges in the British American colonies- Harvard (established 1636), William and Mary (1693), Yale (1701), Codrington (1745) in Barbados, New Jersey (1746) – were instruments of Christian expansionism, weapons for the conquest of indigenous people, and major beneficiaries of the African slave trade and slavery.” (17) Wilder doesn’t stop with the history of these five schools, nor does he stop with the atrocities committed upon the First Peoples of America; he goes into exhaustive detail about the funding of American institutions of higher learning; he links the sale of Africans into bondage to the bricks that built the ivy crusted institutions of today. As a historian, he didn’t shy away from the facts that included slave owning family names, that identify college presidents who traded in human markets, that told which American presidents owned slaves, that exposed religious leaders that brought and sold Africans, and that informed of established religious sects who sponsored slave vessels - all raised funds for American colleges through African slavery. Wilder leaves no gray area in the text; direct contributions from slave merchants built American colleges and universities. “In short, American colleges were not innocent or passive beneficiaries of conquest and colonial slavery. The European invasion of the Americas and the modern slave trade pulled peoples throughout the Atlantic world into each other’s lives, and colleges were among the colonial institutions that braided their histories and rendered their fates dependent and antagonistic. The academy never stood apart from American slavery-in fact, it stood beside church, and state as the third pillar of a civilization built on bondage.” (11) In addition the troubled university history of race and slavery, the text offers a look at the beginning stages of white supremacist thinking in American academia; because, “White America had already made ethic cleansing a preferred solution to their self-constructed racial dilemmas” feelings of entitlement and supremacy were rampant throughout the country. (248) Wilder does an excellent job of showing how the academy and science influenced the thoughts of a young nation, how the ideas of a few can spread to many through teaching. The ideas of manifest destiny and white supremacy were backed by science of the day and academia; these schools of thought led to the destruction of America’s First People and four hundred years of African slavery. Wilder’s ‘Ebony & Ivy’ informs the reader, as the title indicates, of the troubled history of American universities and colleges, but more importantly, the work brings truth and clarity to a distorted historical past.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Niral

    The book documents important facts of the complicity of US universities in slavery. Indeed, without slavery and the profits associated with the various institutions of slavery, these universities would not exist. The detail in this book is dense and sometimes covers the core theses, but the histories documented here should be known to every American.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Thompson

    This book was very eye opening. It went through the history of enslaved people and how college benefited from their labor. How slaveowners donated to the schools. Definitely recommend it

  27. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    You can read the Goodreads blurb to find out what this book's about. The one thing the blurb doesn't mention that I find interesting is that, in the early 1800s when the morality of slavery came into question, all the hallowed institutions built by slavery began rewriting their history, making slaveholders out to be the guardians of the helpless who welcomed the indentured into their homes as family. Maybe so. Maybe not. Information in this book is all new to me. I grew up being taught that slave You can read the Goodreads blurb to find out what this book's about. The one thing the blurb doesn't mention that I find interesting is that, in the early 1800s when the morality of slavery came into question, all the hallowed institutions built by slavery began rewriting their history, making slaveholders out to be the guardians of the helpless who welcomed the indentured into their homes as family. Maybe so. Maybe not. Information in this book is all new to me. I grew up being taught that slavery was as much a part of life in the American north as in the south except that the Southern plantation economy came to depend on it while the North cranked out manufactured goods. Thus, the South became unable to do without slave labor whereas the North could do without it. According to Wilder, this is not exactly true of the North. In the early 1600s, as colonials came to the "New World," they began enslaving the native population, then as trade developed with the West Indies, Native American slaves were traded for black slaves. Sending the Indians south kept them from causing so much trouble. But as the Ivy League colleges/universities were established, slaves served the founders and built the buildings to house the students. Then northern slave traders, who later identified themselves as "merchants", financed the schools with money from selling people (among other goods). The esteemed colleges courted the "merchants" in both America and, later, in the West Indies. They wanted their money and their sons. This all happened while the South was still being populated (with the exception of Virginia which was colonized at about the same time as New England). This paints a picture of the North's relationship with slavery that was never mentioned in the textbooks of my junior high, senior high, or college studies of American History. Hmmmmmm. I became interested in this book after hearing the author interviewed on NPR. It gets 2 stars for very crummy writing. Poor intros, poor transitions, poor flow. It's mostly a laundry list of prominent American slaveowners and their dirty deeds. It may as well have been presented as bulleted lists: the clergy and their dirty deeds, the founders and presidents of the Ivy League schools and their dirty deeds, the merchants and their dirty deeds, etc. I was overjoyed when I discovered that pp.289-423 were notes and the index.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Candice

    This is another important book insofar as the information it contains about the history of racism in developing America. Wilder ties the slave trade to the founding universities, Yale, Harvard, Brown, U o Penn, Rutgers, William and Mary, etc., etc., etc. - all the first halls of learning - but it goes much further in illustrating just how prevalent slavery was in Colonial America - apparently everyone had slaves, unlike our common perception that slaves were only held in the southern plantations This is another important book insofar as the information it contains about the history of racism in developing America. Wilder ties the slave trade to the founding universities, Yale, Harvard, Brown, U o Penn, Rutgers, William and Mary, etc., etc., etc. - all the first halls of learning - but it goes much further in illustrating just how prevalent slavery was in Colonial America - apparently everyone had slaves, unlike our common perception that slaves were only held in the southern plantations. Slaves were held all through New England and the Mid-Atlantic. Preachers owned them. Even Quakers were slave traders. No surprise - this country was developed and built on slave labor. The only problem with it for me was that it was a little difficult to read. It is meticulously researched, and he names names and produces interesting documents regarding the transference of human beings and their use, value and sale, but the narrative is somewhat confusing. It feels sometimes as if he's just documenting the facts, which is fine, but makes for some tedious going. (There's about 100 pages of footnotes.) Nonetheless, the information is fascinating and depressing - while the universities were built using slave labor, after trying to convert the "savages" into Christianity, they then came up with so-called scientific theories to prove the sub-human level of intelligence in African Americans. Finally their solution was to simply "get rid of them" - that will solve the ethical dilemma, although he does not get into the process shipping emancipated blacks back to Africa. How whitewashed, no pun intended, history has become in erasing this attitude. He also illustrates how the colonists enabled the "Great Dying" of the Native Americans. Enlightening.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stormy

    AAUW Adelante Book Recommendation by Rebecca Horahan, AAUW McLean Area (VA) Branch: 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 AAUW Adelante Book Recommendation by Rebecca Horahan, AAUW McLean Area (VA) Branch: 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 the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill — 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. Available in print, Kindle, NOOK Book, and audiobook format

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rob S

    Ebony and Ivy has a great title, well-written, well sourced, and some interesting material but there's just something off about it to me. The author's conclusions are well founded and clearly Mr. Wilder put a lot of work into it. The amount of notes used for the book (134 pages with 288 pages of text) is worth noting. However, I felt like the title of the book and description of it versus what the book actually covered are two different things. So perhaps I am wrong on this one, and either way I Ebony and Ivy has a great title, well-written, well sourced, and some interesting material but there's just something off about it to me. The author's conclusions are well founded and clearly Mr. Wilder put a lot of work into it. The amount of notes used for the book (134 pages with 288 pages of text) is worth noting. However, I felt like the title of the book and description of it versus what the book actually covered are two different things. So perhaps I am wrong on this one, and either way I leave it to you to decide. My impression when I picked up the book (as other reviewers have pointed out) is a full history of slavery in correlation with American colleges, how it plays out today, etc. We did get the early history of how the slave trade connects with American colleges, but the author doesn't cover much into the 1800's. It felt like the author was writing a different book and halfway through the process thought this new concept (justifiably so since I picked it up) would be more interesting to your average reader. I would loved to have see more focus on how the slave trade with America's "greatest" universities impacts these institutions today or more focus on the type of legacy it leaves. Overall, as previously stated, the book is well written. Whether you think you'll agree with the conclusions of it or not, it's definitely worth picking up.

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