Schomburg Conversations: Slavery, Universities and Inner Cities

Schomburg TalksOn December 9, 2014 at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture an amazing discussion surrounding slavery, universities and inner cities ensued. MIT Professor of History, Craig Wilder and Trinity College’s American Studies Professor, Darvarian Baldwin participated in an intellectual and stimulating dialogue that provided insight on the dynamic surrounding the climate of higher education both past and present.

The professors provided insight on the many areas of society, government, education and industry that historically have a direct link to the African diaspora. We can attribute the contributions and inclusion of slaves on college campuses as far back as the 1700s.

It’s no secret that colleges and universities played a major role in colonialism. It is also no secret that many of the top universities in the country are centered in impoverished areas which are disproportionately occupied by African Americans.

Higher education has become a top dollar industry and universities hold stakes in much more than just continuing education. Universities have fast become conglomerates and major contributors in the economic standings of communities which includes real estate and commerce. Baldwin talked of universities competing as big businesses but still participating in educational specific PILT programs (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) geared towards allowing payments to federal government in lieu of paying taxes on state owned land.

Building colleges in these impoverished communities benefits the university. The land is cheaper and in turn the universities charge high real estate prices

I encourage everyone to further research this historical topic that sheds light on an area of African diaspora that is not often discussed. It’s important to gain an understanding of the correlation between slavery, universities and inner cities. As a community we should become knowledgeable and hold the institutions of higher education accountable for the economic progression in their communities.


Craig Wilder – Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities.

Davarian L. Baldwin – Chicago’s New Negroes: Modernity, the Great Migration, and Black Urban Life.




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