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.
He grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University focusing on urban history, under the tutelage of Kenneth T. Jackson, as well as Barbara J. Fields, and Eric Foner. His doctoral dissertation was titled Race and the History of Brooklyn, New York which followed the history of Brooklyn from the arrival of the Dutch to the present day, focusing on the experiences of African-Americans. He has appeared on the History Channel's F.D.R.: A Presidency Revealed and on Ric Burns' PBS series, New York: A Documentary Film. Wilder was an assistant professor and Chair of African-American Studies at Williams College from 1995 to 2002, when he joined the faculty at Dartmouth. He remained at Dartmouth from 2002 to 2008 when he joined the faculty at MIT.
He is the author of A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn (2000), In The Company of Black Men: The African Influence on African American Culture in New York City (2001) and Ebony & Ivy (2013). He was awarded The University Medal of Excellence by Columbia University in 2004.