Ebony and ivy book summary

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ebony and ivy book summary

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Published 10.12.2018

McKeen Center Community Read & Book Talk: "Ebony & Ivy"

Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities

It has become an article of faith that American exceptionalism starts with our lack of a feudal past. Settled by sturdy farmers and righteous artisans, the story goes, we were spared the long, bloody transition to capitalism that marked European history. A broad commitment to popular government and Enlightenment values helped solidify the foundations of a middle-class republic whose pragmatism and ability to compromise guaranteed political stability and broad prosperity. This comforting account has served to introduce generations of Americans to the conviction that we are well on the way to overcoming the painful history of slavery. This is where critically-informed, path-breaking scholarship can truly serve human progress. No good can come from denying this. The shame, denial, guilt and hypocrisy that have so distorted our understanding of our shared history can be dispelled by an honest accounting of origins and a commitment to move past sunny ignorance.

Leffler Craig Steven Wilder. New York: Bloomsbury, This is a national history, convincingly demonstrating how university faculty and administrators used slavery to their advantage and both reified and institutionalized scientific racism into its curriculum. The book is a profoundly sad and troubling assessment of the political, economic, religious and intellectual underpinnings of a nation based on principles of white supremacy and the central role of American universities in support of such ideas. It is a tour de force of scholarship and analysis, and should be widely used by students of American history and culture.


African American Review




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  1. This summary of Ebony and Ivy includes a complete plot overview – spoilers Convincingly, the book demonstrates how universities took advantage of slavery .

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