A Student of History

October 31, 2006

Yale, JCC & Slavery

Filed under: The past that is still with us — John Maass @ 1:12 pm

In the Yale Daily News is a column about the legacy of slavery, increasingly being discussed not in the “Old South,” but in the halls fo the academy up North.

In one of the stained-glass windows in the Calhoun College dining hall, a black man and woman walk through a field, baskets of produce on their heads. Although no explicit description of the window’s contents is provided, the image it presents is unmistakable: this is John C. Calhoun‘s South Carolina, the produce in the basket is cotton, and the man and woman are slaves. Although the legacy of Yale’s connection to slavery may be tucked away in the corner of a dining hall, it is still a fact of history. While a Brown University committee recently completed a report detailing the University’s historical ties to slavery, Yale has not focused significant attention on its own ties since 2002, when the law school and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition teamed up on a conference entitled “Yale, New Haven and American Slavery.” While Yale has no current plans to undertake a report similar to Brown’s, some professors and students said they think the University should promote research on the issue.

Calhoun was a Yale graduate, and has left a very interesting debate there over slavery and how the North contributed to it.  More on this is here.  One interesting quote by a student:

“Not everything can be politically correct,” Mimi Jeffries ’07 said. “Especially since [Calhoun] is supposed to be historical. I think it goes along with the theme of reflecting the namesake of the college.”

Wow, they let one say that at Yale????

1 Comment »

  1. For anyone who is interested in the study of Northern involvement in slavery and not just at the time of Calhoun, but right up to the outbreak of the Civil War, I recommend the book, ‘Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged and Profited from Slavery’. This is a fairly new book not authored by discredited (i.e. Southern) sources, but by three journalists from the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant, Anne Farrow, Joel Lang and Jenifer Frank. The book was occasioned by an ‘apology’ written in the newspaper regarding the matter of Northern involvement in slavery, something which heretofore all three authors had considered to be purely a ‘Southern’ institution.

    It might also be enlightening for those who sincerely believe that whites in the North were somehow egalitarian and tolerant towards blacks to learn that there was no essential difference in the attitude of whites regarding the inferiority of blacks on BOTH sides of the Mason-Dixon line. Indeed, some Union states – Illinois being one – passed laws forbidding blacks from migrating to that state in order to reside there. Even the most rabid abolitionists did not wish former slaves to come north and live locally, but rather that they should either remain in the South (the NIMBY sydrome is not a recent phenomena) or, like Linoln and many others, thought that they should be transported to Africa or to colonies established for them in the West Indies. In fact, not too long ago, a Civil War magazine had an article on one such colony established for newly freed slaves in that area and its ultimate failure.

    There is a lot more about the history of the institution of slavery than is covered in present day history books or even, for that matter, those history books written after the Civil War. But, as they say in the X-Files, ‘the truth is out there’ if one only wishes to discover it. Alas, however, far too many people prefer comfortable myths to painful facts.

    Comment by Valerie Protopapas — January 14, 2007 @ 8:32 pm | Reply


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