|Craig Steven Wilder, professor, MIT, author of Ebony and Ivy|
There is no aspect of the U.S. before the Civil War that wasn't infected with slavery and the slave trade, starting in the colonial era. New England's Indian wars tended to conclude with the captives being shipped to West Indian slave markets and sold. There is no institution after the Civil War that wasn't tainted with white supremacy and Jim Crow. That's depressing.
However, Wilder makes clear there were always members of these institutions too, who throughout this sad history, pushed back against slavery, against white supremacy, eugenics, colonization and the slave trade. Often they suffered for it, but the antagonists persevered.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about America’s most elite universities. What relation do they have to slavery?
CRAIG STEVEN WILDER: I think there are multiple relationships. The first and probably most poignant, most provocative, is the relationship to the slave trade itself. In the middle of the 18th century, from 1746 to 1769—fewer than 25 years, less than a quarter century—the number of colleges in the British colonies triples from three to nine. The original three were Harvard, Yale and William & Mary, and all of a sudden there were nine by 1769. And it triples in that 25-year period. That 25-year period actually coincides with the height of the slave trade. It’s precisely the rise and the elaboration of the Atlantic economy, based on the African slave trade, that allows for this sort of fantastic articulation of new growth of the institutional infrastructure of the colonies.