John W. Burgess: An "Apostle of Reaction" on the Hudson Shore

John William Burgess was a seminal figure in the history of Columbia University and in the modern disciplines of political science and history. In 1880, Burgess founded the Columbia School of Political Science, the forebear of that university’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; he spent much of the rest his life serving as dean of that same school and conducting extensive scholarship.

But Burgess’ contributions, though significant, cannot be neatly categorized. Drawing on his experiences at German universities, and in the antebellum and postbellum South, Burgess promoted a vision of the university that was clouded by white supremacy, and espoused an antediluvian view of Reconstruction and race relations. Expansion of Columbia was predicated on the exclusion of African-Americans, women, Jews, and immigrants; his work, meanwhile, provided intellectual support for segregation and imperialism.


Nick Hallock