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BLSA Ebony & Ivy: Dr. Craig Steven Wilder

March 06, 2014

By Angela Hooks C’14

On March 4th, Penn Law students and members of the community gathered in Fitts Auditorium to hear author Dr. Craig Steven Wilder speak about American higher education’s entangled past with slavery, and ill treatment of people of color.

Penn Law’s Black Law Students Association hosted the event in collaboration with Penn’s African American Law Alumni Society, the Penn Program on Race, Science, and Society, the Department of History, Makuu: Black Cultural Center, the Department of Anthropology, and the Center for Africana Studies. 

Opening with an overview of the themes in his book, Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of American Universities, Dr. Wilder chronicled the complicated pasts of top American universities - focusing on the University of Pennsylvania - with race and slavery, putting the oppressive and exploitative tactics of those known to have pioneered the American academy on full display.

“Within a decade of their arrival, …the English had actually attempted to establish colleges before they solved simple little problems like feeding themselves and securing themselves,” said Dr. Wilder, “One actually has to think about the college as an instrument of colonialism itself.”

The event ended with a conversation between Dr. Wilder and Penn Law’s Raymond Pace and Sadie T.M. Alexander Professor of Civil Rights Dorothy Roberts, bringing the discussion to the present day, exploring ways in which colleges are dealing with their complicated histories.