Craig Steven Wilder is a professor of History and Head of the History Faculty at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology. Professor Wilder studies United States urban history, with a particular focus on race, religion, and culture.Professor Wilder is the author of A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn
(Columbia: 2000/2001) and In the Company of Black Men: The African Influence on African American Culture in New York City
(NYU: 2001/2004). Professor Wilder’s new book reexamines the origins of the American academy, and will be published as Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of American Colleges
(New York: Bloomsbury, 2013). Professor Wilder’s keynote speech will be based on his forthcoming book, with more details belowFor the past several years, Professor Wilder has worked with the Bard Prison Initiative
as a guest lecturer, commencement speaker, academic advisor, and visiting professor. For more than a decade, this innovative program has given hundreds of men and women the opportunity to acquire a college education during their incarcerations in the New York State prison system. Initiated and funded by Bard College
, BPI has enjoyed extraordinary success in New York and it has launched similar programs in other states.Professor Wilder has advised and appeared in numerous historical documentaries, including Ken Burns and Sarah Burns’ film, “The Central Park Five
”; Kelly Anderson and Allison Lirish Dean’s highly praised exploration of gentrification, “My Brooklyn
”; the History Channel series, “F.D.R.: A Presidency Revealed
”; and the award-winning PBS series, “New York: A Documentary History
.”Professor Wilder has directed or advised exhibits at regional and national museums, including the Brooklyn Historical Society, the New-York Historical Society, the Chicago History Museum, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center (“BLDG 92”), the New York State Museum, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and the Weeksville Heritage Center. He was one of the original historians for the Museum of Sex in New York City, and he maintains an active public history program.
Professor Wilder will be giving a keynote based off of his forthcoming book, Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities:
A 2006 report commissioned by Brown University revealed that institution’s complex and contested involvement in slavery—setting off a controversy that leapt from the ivory tower to make headlines across the country. But Brown’s troubling past was far from unique. In Ebony and Ivy, Craig Steven Wilder lays bare uncomfortable truths about race, slavery, and the American academy.
Many of America’s revered colleges and universities—from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton to Rutgers, Williams College, and UNC—were soaked in the sweat, the tears, and sometimes the blood of people of color. The earliest academies proclaimed their mission to Christianize the savages of North America, and played a key role in white conquest. Later, the slave economy and higher education grew up together, each nurturing the other. Slavery funded colleges, built campuses, and paid the wages of professors. Enslaved Americans waited on faculty and students; academic leaders aggressively courted the support of slave owners and slave traders. Significantly, as Wilder shows, our leading universities, dependent on human bondage, became breeding grounds for the racist ideas that sustained them.
Ebony and Ivy is a powerful and propulsive study and the first of its kind, revealing a history of oppression behind the institutions usually considered the cradle of liberal politics.