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Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities [Kindle Edition]

Craig Steven Wilder
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Not only were many of America’s most prestigious colleges founded and supported by slaveholders, but the colleges also provided much of the scholarly and cultural basis of support for slavery. Historian Wilder documents the uncomfortable truth of the inextricable tie between slavery and the ivory tower, how venerable colleges, including Harvard, Princeton, William and Mary, Yale, and others, vied for the attention, land, sons, and money of plantation owners. Slavery provided financial support to the colleges and secure career prospects for many of their graduates, and many colleges owned slaves used for work, trade, and sale. What began for many universities as an ostensible mission of civilizing savages—Native Americans and Africans—later morphed into support for the establishment and development of colonies and territorial expansion. In the growing debate about slavery, abolition, and the movement to return Africans to Africa, prestigious universities and scholars helped to frame and address questions of theology, economics, medicine, history, and other areas of study in the growing debate around the issue, many legitimizing slavery and racism even as they benefited from it. This is a well-researched and revealing look at the connection between American academia and American slavery. --Vanessa Bush


“Wilder knows a great deal about his subject and does not flinch from facing it head-on . . . There is much to admire in Ebony & Ivy and much to learn from it.” —The Washington Post
“A groundbreaking history that will no doubt contribute to a reappraisal of some deep-rooted founding myths.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“A well-researched and revealing look at the connection between American academia and American slavery.” —Booklist, starred review
"Wilder's copiously documented argument exposes how deeply implicated American higher education has been in racial exploitation that has dispossessed and subjugated peoples of color so as to invest whites beyond measure. His is a study deserving of serious attention from anyone interested in America's history, institutions, or intellectual development." —Library Journal

Product Details

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
73 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Painful Reminder For Many September 25, 2013
This book is a painful reminder for many, and a painful illumination for others, that life in the Early Americas for anyone who wasn't part of the Colonial expansion from Europe was far from idealistic and idyllic. Wilder moves through the pre-Colonial era with a disturbing grace. His language refuses to allow the reader to sanitize the genocide and abduction of both Native American and African populations during this period. He doesn't let the reader hide behind the strangely neutral "slave"-- it's always enslaved person-- because that's truly the point behind this examination of Early America.

Not only was the country itself built on the labor of enslaved people, even the places that we consider today to be bastions for progressive thought, have racism steeped into the very foundations. This is not an easy read, nor is it a pop social commentary on race. It's a thoughtful, in-depth examination that requires your attention on every page. It reveals and reminds us all that despite the high-minded thoughts of early leaders, their actions were very, very different indeed-- especially if they served to profit from the trade in human beings.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
By jay k.
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Focusing on the highest level educational institutions in early America, which were almost always closely connected to churches, Wilder provides a very strong demonstration of how deeply ingrained slavery was as not only a legal and normal institution, but an institution which was accepted by those considered to be society's highest intellectual and ethical leaders. This very readable book reflects the author's extensive research and balanced use of his findings. I would recommend it highly.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ebony & Ivy: The Educational Soul of America December 10, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ebony & Ivy demonstrates the beauty of truth-telling and scholary research in a most dignified manner. It does not assign blame, it powerfully connects how things that happened in the past is embodied in the present, and continues to exist in the future.

I believe that Dr. Craig Steven Wilder has gifted us, human kind, with a wealth of knowledge about the creation of educational institutions in America ... the soul of our American civilization.

I am still amazed at how money is raised in the name of one group, but the money is mainly used to finance yet another group.

I would highly recommend this book for all, especially professional educators ... the so called, "keepers-of-the-gate." At this time, I cannot imagine a masters or doctoral degree being conferred without a class using Ebony & Ivy as its core.

Thank you, Dr. Wilder. Thanks to the many who helped to facilitate this scholary work.

In addition, Dr.Wilder, your interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! is gracious, scholarly, magnificent ...!
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent historical monograph November 7, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a must-read for all people in American academia. It uses archival research to uncover the racist roots of our most prestigious private institutions of higher education. Students should be assigned this book and professors should discuss the vast implications of its revelations. Even IF we already knew that the economy of this country was based largely on slave labor, that our hallowed halls of academe also took advantage of our early forays into slavery and plantation products is eloquently demonstrated here. One of the most enlightening historical monographs I have read in years.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Time for Truth October 19, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a searing, factual indictment of the American colonial elite, New Englanders not excepted, for their unapologetic participation in the slave trade and the subjugation of non-white persons. For once and for all, it makes clear the close connections between the mercantile, social, intellectual and religious leaders of the north and the south in the two centuries before the Civil War.
I give it only four stars because the author seldom stops to merciless parade of examples to help the reader see the broader implications.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We Need to Know This January 24, 2014
By Cygnet
Despite its poetic title, this is a very serious book discussing a less than pleasant topic – the permeation of slavery throughout the early history of the English colonies, and ultimately the United States, and its influence in establishing the American academic community. To say I enjoyed the book is to demean the brutal circumstances discussed in the book. Let me say instead, that the book reads like an unpublished doctoral thesis: It is well written and achieves its goal of educating the reader, nay, inducting the reader, into an awareness of the skillfully disguised, little disclosed, underlying roots of the history of education in America. Fully one-third of the book consists of notes and citations.

And yet, while clearly an academic work, the book is woven in such a way as to grasp the attention and interest of the reader. Dr. Wilder documents the stories of real people with a style that takes seemingly dry facts and fashions a wholeness of reality. Then, based on seeing reality in that way, the reader can recognize the veracity of the disheartening thesis. Interestingly enough, I believe that what makes this work so powerful is that where some authors would be most emotional (and emotionally attached to the thesis), Dr. Wilder simply piles more facts on the table. The reader cannot help but nod in acknowledgement of the obvious.

The financial foundation of the American educational system is indeed traceable to the profits gained from the ownership of enslaved people and the suppression of the native peoples of America. Why do we need to know this? We do not need to know this in order to feel guilty, but instead, to understand that nothing happens in a vacuum. We need to know this in order to feel grateful to all who have contributed to our society.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book - must read about US slavery
Great book! Read for a seminar and was an incredible look at the regional specificity of slavery and how the regime really grounded the building, expansion and maintenance of the... Read more
Published 23 days ago by Makshya Tolbert
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Item as described. Thank you!
Published 28 days ago by Keith
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 29 days ago by David H.
4.0 out of 5 stars It's great book book for all to read
It's great book book for all to read, whether you are black, white or somewhere in-between. I did not like the repetitious nature of how many of the Chapters kept repeating family... Read more
Published 2 months ago by G. Kennett
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading.
Early chapters bog down in repetition but improved considerably after that. But good information and insight into the role of racism in US History.
Published 3 months ago by Earl J Reeves
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderful read. Fascinating!!!
Published 4 months ago by R.C. Mayfield
5.0 out of 5 stars I found the book to be very informative. The ...
I found the book to be very informative. The interrelationships between the schools churches and slave traders in both the North and
and south is very interesting. Read more
Published 4 months ago by ED
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
I was expecting a good story. It was to technical for me, Bernie's wife. Bernie liked it.
Published 5 months ago by Bernard j Myers
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good read
Published 5 months ago by Leslie Croswell Sr
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done!!! A Great benefit indeed!!!
Great historian and researcher, I cant say any more than five stars wonderful!!!
He did our ancestors a great benefit, I can see them Smiling from the Essence of all in... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Super Man 7
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