Browse Exhibits (15 total)

Rebuilding the Master's House

Columbia College, formerly named King's College, is and always been an institution made by and for the advancement of a particular group of people: affluent white men. Though campus only evolved to admit women starting in 1983 (with women attending Barnard College since 1889), does not at all suggest a drastic liberalization of the student body. With the University's ideological and institutional roots deeply intertwined with slavery and white supremacy, Columbia University and its administration can still, in 2017, pride itself as a predominantly white institution. Sentiments from students of minority and marginalized identities – particularly those most ostracized – have not drastically changed much since 1966, the first time more than 20 black undergraduates existed between Columbia and Barnard Colleges. 

Since then, students of minority and marginalized identities have relentlessly petitioned, demonstrated, and fought against administration and its colonizing projects – both geographically and ideologically – to try to prevent further trauma from being inflicted on those who have already experienced so much of it. This timeline is incomplete— mostly due to varied, inaccurate accounts of events that have taken place and administration's response(s). 

Sugar and Columbia University

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Columbia's Havemeyer Hall was named after and donated by the Havemeyer family, a prominent sugar refining family in New York City. Henry Osborne Havemeyer, one of the third generation of men in his family to work in sugar refining, helped create the Sugar Trust and saw its transition into the American Sugar Refining Company in response to 1890 anti-trust laws. The sugar refining industry was embedded in slavery, both in the United States and in American and European colonies. The production of sugar depended almost entirely on the labor of enslaved people of African descent up until abolition. After the abolition of slavery in the United States, imports of foreign sugar increased dramatically, the majority of which came from Cuba, where slavery continued until 1886. A stipulation of anti-trust laws was that manufacturing of sugar was distinct from its production, absolving sugar refiners of accountability. Legal irresponsibility of course did not translate to anything but superficial detachment. Sugar refineries used and profited from slavery from the start. The sugar industry therefore illuminates the fallacies of the "moral North." 

At Columbia University, Charles Frederick Chandler was a professor of chemistry and an important figure in New York City politics and commerce. He was the President of the Department of Health, head of the chemistry department, consultant for multiple sugar refiners, including the Havemeyers, and highly respected voice in academia. As a source of legitimacy and authority for sugar refining interests, he built Columbia's chemistry department out of industrial, commercial interests. Charles Frederick Chandler is a visible intellectual, personal, and financial link between Columbia University and the Havemeyer sugar empire. His story links the university to sugar, to New York City, and to an international trade predicated on the stolen labor of people of African descent. 

William A. Dunning: Columbia’s Legacy of White Supremacy

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Graduate of Columbia College and the late Columbia School of Political Science, William Archibald Dunning inspired the Dunning School of Reconstruction, a racist school of thought that encompassed the majority of scholars and professors in the field of American history and political science throughout the 20th Century.

The Dunning School claimed that the reunification of the North and the South was only achievable via the principle of white supremacy; the prevalent group of scholars deemed the Reconstruction era disastrous and denounced the Republican Party for the enfranchisement of black Americans. The central scholarship and philosophy of the Dunningites were rooted in the rejection of Reconstruction, the rejection of black Americans’ humanity.

Without the late Columbia professor’s success in the fields of history and political science; without his ability to forge close relationships with his students and colleagues, the Dunning School wouldn’t have been a reality. Dunning’s Olympian authority in Reconstruction history and political science fortified and popularized the Dunning School’s white supremacist agendas. His work dominated 20th century academia and continues to exist vestigially in the form of racist  21st century American public.

Frederick Barnard: Barnard College and the afterlives of slavery at Columbia University

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This exhibit explores the life of Frederick Barnard, the 10th President of Columbia University and major contributor to the movement towards coeducation and eventual founding of Barnard College. This exhibit also looks into Barnard's legacy and it's maintenance of anti Black racial exclusion in the name of coeducation. The research is structured into three parts; the first section examines the life of Frederick Barnard, his experiences as an educator, a slaveholder and his legacy at Columbia. The second section will look at the work and efforts of Columbia's first female graduate, Annie Nathan Meyer. The final section will look at the early days of Barnard College and the experiences of the college's first female Black graduate, Nora Neale Hurston.

By examining the life and experiences of these three unique figures in the histories of Barnard and Columbia, this exhibit aims to shed light on some of the true motivations behind coeducation and the ways in which the afterlives of slavery and white supremacy have been maintained through the compromise made in founding Barnard College.

This exhibit stands to explore how/to what extent Barnard's brand of feminism has been shaped or effected by Frederick Barnard's life and legacy and Columbia's history of Slavery

Race Science and Eugenics at Columbia

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My project has been focused on the study of race science at Columbia University, both at the College of Physicians and Surgeons and at Columbia College. I have primarily focused on late 19th, into the early 20th century, when scientific racism was a growing trend both in academia and in the scientific community itself. I looked at people who were researching anatomical and biological differences between the races, the classification of races at the time, as well as American Eugenics and related movements. Columbia academics have played significant roles in the discourse surrounding all of these.

New York City one place that was very much at the heart of leading scientific research. As a growing urban center with mass amounts of resources at its disposal, as well as the presence of such places as the American Museum of Natural History, Columbia University, New York University, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island, it makes sense that so much scientific discussion and investigation would be taking place out of New York.  At Columbia, an institution at the forefront of education and research, there were a variety of people participating in the discussions of race science and eugenics. On one hand, there were such people as George S. Huntington, Ales Hrdlicka, Madison Grant, Edward Spitzka, Maurice Bigelow and others who were associated with Columbia and in some way contributed to the study of racialized science. On the other hand, Franz Boas is a well known Columbia professor who changed the way that anthropology was looked at, and is largely credited with shifting it away from being a heavily racialized science into something much more legitimate.

My research is not directly about slavery. However there is an intimate connection between the institution of slavery and the ideologies that allowed scientific movements like social darwinism and Eugenics to prevail as legitimate fields of science for so long. Despite the fact that slavery ended in 1865, white racist thinking which excused and perpetuated it continued to thrive. This, in combination with the rapid scientific advancements of the 19th century-most notably Darwin’s theory of evolution-as well as the growing popularity of such fields as anatomy and anthropology, created a space in the scientific community for the racialization of science, and the emergence the American Eugenics Movement. It was an accepted idea among scientists throughout the 1800s and up until about the 1920s that physiological and anatomical differences between the races were indicative of fundamental biological and evolutionary inequalities. Characteristics such as skull size and shape, brain weight, as well as bone structure in the skeleton of different races were used to explain why some civilizations were less advanced than others. It also provided a so-called factual basis for racism. Some such study of comparative anatomy was carried out at Columbia, and academics here produced a variety of contributions to research on brain and bone anatomy.