Number 19 - December 5, 2002
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is not a more coveted degree by the status-starved Black elite than
that which is conferred by Harvard University. The Cambridge center
of traditional American intellectualism can lay claim to having stamped
a goodly number of government and industry leaders with its crimson
imprimatur. A negro wearing a Harvard brand has always earned special
attention of the masses, mostly because of the white custom of unilaterally
elevating its negro matriculants to race leadership.
has expertly repudiated Harvard's Randall Kennedy, who is currently
touring the lecture circuit telling whites for $25 a head that there
is no longer any word that is objectionable in describing the Black
race. His book Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word has
served to raise a deeper issue still. An internet search of Randall
Kennedy reveals that every single mention of this white man's trusty
ne'er-do-well is appended to an equally prominent mention of his affiliation
with Harvard - an inferential certification of Kennedy as a racial authority.
A study of early Black nomenclature reveals that emerging from the American
slave system, Blacks often took the name of the white man who had enslaved
them as their new surname. Thus, the former "Toby, President Washington's
nigger" became Toby Washington, and so forth. Kennedy has linked
himself to Harvard - and they to him - in precisely the same way, making
themselves just as responsible for Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome
Word as the nigger himself.
So, what is Harvard
University to Black folks? And why have so many Blacks with suspect
motives, and having no organic relationship to any Black institution,
placed in front of Blacks to speak on Blacks' behalf? Maybe it is time
to examine the legacy of this institution to understand the nature of
those Blacks who so proudly wear its brand. Such Blacks continue to
be given extraordinary access to public airwaves to opine on and interpret
the Black condition for white America. More than a generation ago Adam
Clayton Powell confidently asserted that Harvard has "ruined more
negroes than bad whiskey." A brief racial history of America's
intellectual Vatican puts its special role, and Powell's biting assessment,
in proper context.
was founded in 1636 (just six years after the settlement of Boston)
with the intent of academically assisting the clergy in their attempts
to brainwash the Massachusetts Indians into accepting white European
customs and religious beliefs. In this they were wholly unsuccessful,
having only graduated one Indian, who died just a year later. Once conversion
failed, the ol' Pilgrim/Puritan standby of massacres and mayhem was
employed, and the Red man was no longer welcome at Harvard. Thus, in
1698 Harvard tore down its "Indian College" and used the bricks
to construct the new Stoughton College--named for the family of the
man who has been "credited" with the annihilation of the Pequot
Indians in 1637.
Quiet as it's kept,
the slave trade was the primary economic force in the development of
Boston's elite, and most of that class were trained at Harvard. Puritan
minister and president of Harvard (1685-1701) Increase Mather held African
slaves. Benjamin Wadsworth, president from 1725-1737, was a member of
one of the leading slaveholding families in New England. "Servants
are very Wicked," he once wrote, "when they are LAZY and IDLE
in their Masters Service. The Slothful Servant is justly called Wicked..."
In 1756, the First Parish Church at Cambridge was made off-limits to
Blacks when Harvard officials objected to their sitting in the gallery.
In 1773 Harvard hosted a debate in which Blacks were defined as "a
conglomerate of child, idiot and madman." Many of the early ship-owning
slave traders of New England sent their children to Harvard, as did
many of the Southern plantation owners. The grand wizard of the Massachusetts
Ku Klux Klan graduated from Harvard in 1853. One of the most viciously
anti-Black newspapers in Boston history was run by a Harvard graduate.
A host of paragons
of race hate acquired their intellectual bearings at this Cambridge
center of white supremacy, including many icons of American history.
John Adams, Samuel Adams, Josiah Quincy, Theodore Roosevelt, to name
a few, have proudly ascended to the upper echelon of America's racial
villainy. John Adams "shuddered at the doctrine" of racial
equality and spoke in Hitlerian terms of "quieting the Indians
forever." Samuel Adams and Josiah Quincy both enslaved Black Africans.
Roosevelt voiced the common Harvard creed that Blacks were backward
savages who needed strong white rule to bring them into civilization.
The Africans, this Harvard-trained American president believed, were
"ape-like, naked savages, who dwell in the woods and prey on creatures
not much wilder or lower than themselves." Divinity school graduate
Ralph Waldo Emerson asserted matter-of-factly that "it is better
to hold the negro one inch below water than one inch above it."
Harvard, a pillar
of the Brahmin establishment, "did its best to stifle anti-slavery
[legislation]." When expelled German scholar Charles Follen sought
refuge in America, he found it on the Harvard faculty. But when he became
an abolitionist in 1833, he was immediately fired. When Harvard graduate
Charles Sumner criticized slavery in a speech to the student body in
1848, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow recorded the reaction: "the shouts
and hisses and the vulgar interruptions grated on my ears." Two
of the college's honorable presidents, Jared Sparks and Cornelius Felton,
were strong supporters of the notorious Fugitive Slave Bill, which aligned
the northern "free states" with the Southern slave-owners
in apprehending runaway Black slaves. When a Southern slaveholder came
up to a Boston court to use the fugitive slave law to reclaim "his
slave" Anthony Burns, Harvard students acted as the slaveholder's
graduate Lemuel Shaw was considered to be the most influential state
judge in American history. Shaw considered Blacks who escaped from chattel
slavery to be "fugitives from labor" and ordered their immediate
return. When two Black women were arrested in 1836 as escaped slaves,
Shaw allowed the slave catchers to correct their warrant so that they
could re-arrest the Black women right in his courtroom. The Blacks who
came to court refused to stand by and allow for this outrage and attempted
to rescue the women. Shaw himself tried to stop them before he was knocked
to the floor during the successful escape.
As chief justice
the Harvard-trained Shaw delivered the unanimous opinion of the Massachusetts
Supreme Court which upheld the legality of school segregation,
providing the basis for the doctrine of "separate but equal"
- America's official racial policy until 1954. Between 1872 and 1949
at least eleven state courts cited Shaw's opinion to justify their own
state's segregationist policies. (In 1956, when Virginia Senator Robert
Byrd read his infamous "Defiance: The Southern Manifesto"
he was joined by 19 Southern Senators and 70 Representatives, including
J. William Fulbright and Strom Thurmond. Byrd cited Shaw's opinion to
buttress his last stand against the Supreme Court's desegregation order.)
The many well-to-do
Harvard students from Southern plantation families did not have to long
for the amenities of their beloved slavocracy; upon their arrival at
the University each cracker was given a Black servant they euphemistically
called a "scout." All the while Blacks served Harvard's white
faculty and enrollees as janitors, custodians, and waiters. The first
record of these "scouts" at Harvard is noted by Samuel F.
Batchelder, in Bits of Harvard History, as he contemptuously recounts
the tribulation of these unpaid, overworked Harvard slaves:
What ebony face
with rolling white eyeballs grins sheepishly at us from this mildewed
page? Who was this blackamoor who surreptitiously helped himself to
beer and (possibly under its influence) made so free of little Sam
Hough's bed? Have we not here the first darkey "scout" of
Harvard, progenitor of the whole tribe of college coons and great-grandfather
of all Memorial Hall waiters? What fluky breeze of fortune wafted
this dusky child of nature from a languorous coral strand to the grim
confines of Calvinistic Cambridge? Were colored brethren already hanging
round the Square looking for odd jobs ere that classic forum had become
clearly distinguishable from the encircling wilderness?
But always, Blacks
seeking to better themselves attempted to break through Harvard's rigid
racial barriers. When three Black men attended lectures at the Medical
School in 1850, groups of white students protested their presence and
prevailed upon the faculty to expel them. Harvard president Charles
Eliot (term 1869-1909) stated his belief in separate educational facilities
for Blacks and whites and suggested that Harvard may implement such
a policy. He maintained - quite accurately - that the white man in the
North is no less averse to the mingling of races than his Southern counterpart.
Race hater Louis
Agassiz, the dean of the Nazi-approved philosophy of scientific racism,
and for whom a Harvard campus building is currently named, warned fellow
whites, "Let us beware of granting too much to the negro race...lest
it become necessary hereafter to deprive them of some of the privileges
which they may use to their own and our detriment." Agassiz found
his views of the Black man warmly received and echoed by Harvard deans
Henry Eustis, who considered Blacks "little above beasts,"
and Nathaniel Shaler, who believed Blacks "unfit for an independent
place in a civilized state." In 1922-23, President A. Lawrence
Lowell barred Blacks from living in the freshman dormitories saying,
"We have not thought it possible to compel men of different races
to reside together."
Around that time,
Harvard's venerable newspaper, the Crimson, excitedly announced the
presence of the school's very own Ku Klux Klan chapter. Without a trace
of indignation, it trumpeted the KKK's campus membership drive. The
paper even promised to respect the secret identities of the KKK leaders,
and announced the possibility of the establishment of the branch of
the KKK called Kamelia, the female KKK, at Radcliffe. By 1960 Harvard
was writing letters to white students asking if they had problems with
being assigned a Black roommate. (Black students received no such "courtesy.")
In the '80s, Bell Curve author, the now dead Richard Herrnstein, successfully
restored Harvard's white-hooded intellectual tradition, which seemed
to have been usurped briefly by some loud but ineffectual liberal '70s
So, here comes Randall
Kennedy, bookending this tradition to the proud nods of his white campus
puppeteers. Ultimately, those Blacks who seek to append themselves to
this corrupt legacy will suffer a shameful disgrace. For increasing
numbers of Blacks today are in complete agreement with the great "uneducated"
freedom fighter Fannie Lou Hamer, who could not have been clearer when
recounting the battles she fought for political representation and justice:
would compromise in five minutes was the people with a real good education.
I don't understand that - I really don't to save my life. Them folks
will sell you - they will sell your mama, their mama, anybody else
for a dollar.
is a researcher and editor at CBIA Publishing in Detroit.