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Conference Paper: ‘A Big Black Negro Is Now in this Institution’: The Spectacle of African American Student Bodies in 1840s-1850s Northern Universities

Title‘A Big Black Negro Is Now in this Institution’: The Spectacle of African American Student Bodies in 1840s-1850s Northern Universities
Authors
Issue Date2017
Citation
Symposium on Universities, Slavery, Public Memory, and the Built Landscape, University of Virginia How to Cite?
AbstractIn the 1840s-50s, Colgate University’s two earliest-known African-American students became hypervisible – their presence and indeed their very bodies scrutinized in newspapers such as Frederick Douglass’ Paper and Virginia’s Baptist Herald and publicized in correspondence. But by 2015, both students had become invisible, erased from Colgate’s history and obscured in its archive. This paper examines how Colgate used students Jonas Townsend and Henry Simpson to publicize its accommodationist position on slavery, deploying student bodies to paper over a larger split within Baptist institutions such as Colgate, wherein Baptists struggled to accommodate both abolitionists and supporters of slavery. It uses the students as a lens on how admission of black students played out at Northern schools from Colby College and Middlebury College to Union College and Dartmouth University; and examines consequences for University narratives of slavery/abolition in light of efforts to resurface buried histories. I argue that Colgate’s instrumental narrative of diversity, which emphasized the “usefulness” of students of color, left space for Colgate President George Cutten, a public supporter of eugenics, to articulate a rationale for purging Colgate’s substantial black student community in the 1920s. The purge, which lasted until 1948, enabled the construction of a new history of Colgate that erased the early presence of African-American students – a narrative materialized in the presence of Cutten Hall and the absence of a space recognizing African-American alumni until 2016. The paper concludes by examining how Northern universities can engage with their histories of diversity without inclusion, focusing on the recent effort to remove Cutten’s name from a dormitory as Colgate approaches its 2019 Bicentennial.
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/276384

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorPetrulis, J-
dc.date.accessioned2019-09-10T03:02:06Z-
dc.date.available2019-09-10T03:02:06Z-
dc.date.issued2017-
dc.identifier.citationSymposium on Universities, Slavery, Public Memory, and the Built Landscape, University of Virginia-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/276384-
dc.description.abstractIn the 1840s-50s, Colgate University’s two earliest-known African-American students became hypervisible – their presence and indeed their very bodies scrutinized in newspapers such as Frederick Douglass’ Paper and Virginia’s Baptist Herald and publicized in correspondence. But by 2015, both students had become invisible, erased from Colgate’s history and obscured in its archive. This paper examines how Colgate used students Jonas Townsend and Henry Simpson to publicize its accommodationist position on slavery, deploying student bodies to paper over a larger split within Baptist institutions such as Colgate, wherein Baptists struggled to accommodate both abolitionists and supporters of slavery. It uses the students as a lens on how admission of black students played out at Northern schools from Colby College and Middlebury College to Union College and Dartmouth University; and examines consequences for University narratives of slavery/abolition in light of efforts to resurface buried histories. I argue that Colgate’s instrumental narrative of diversity, which emphasized the “usefulness” of students of color, left space for Colgate President George Cutten, a public supporter of eugenics, to articulate a rationale for purging Colgate’s substantial black student community in the 1920s. The purge, which lasted until 1948, enabled the construction of a new history of Colgate that erased the early presence of African-American students – a narrative materialized in the presence of Cutten Hall and the absence of a space recognizing African-American alumni until 2016. The paper concludes by examining how Northern universities can engage with their histories of diversity without inclusion, focusing on the recent effort to remove Cutten’s name from a dormitory as Colgate approaches its 2019 Bicentennial.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.relation.ispartofSymposium on Universities, Slavery, Public Memory, and the Built Landscape, University of Virginia-
dc.title‘A Big Black Negro Is Now in this Institution’: The Spectacle of African American Student Bodies in 1840s-1850s Northern Universities-
dc.typeConference_Paper-
dc.identifier.emailPetrulis, J: petrulis@hku.hk-
dc.identifier.hkuros304222-

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