20. Left Out of the Banquet: African Americans

Alma Mater/Spring 2014
April 14, 2014

20. Uninvited to the Banquet – African Americans

The two post- WW II decades – “The American Century” (as per Time’s Henry Luce)

American dominance in global affairs unprecedented:
Military superiority – nuclear capability; surface and sub-surface navy; air force
challenged in terms of boots-on-the-ground (USSR/China combined); military intelligence?
Economic  superiority  — Industrial output; worker wages/conditions/the dollar as the int’l currency;
Diplomatic influence – NATO/Middle East partners (Saudi Arabia/Iran…)
Cultural ambitions – the arts/architecture – and not least our universities
Germany’s universities – discredited professoriate; facilities destroyed
Britain’s universities — impoverished

American Universities
The privileged institution – more than the churches/the corporations/the military/the governments….
Recipient of  vast federal funding  (defense research);
Much increased state funding (California/NY/Conn…..)
Foundation funding – Ford Foundation à area studies/graduate fellowships
Foreign-Area Research Program/Woodrow Wilson/

Who doing the funding today?  States very little and dropping     Foundations??
Adjusted tuitions at public instns rising faster than privates??
Parents with hefty tuitions
Students with loans/long-term debts

Who benefitted?
Faculty and wanna-be-faculty – includes Jews; doesn’t exclude Catholics; white ethnics….
“Straights?”
Asian Americans?
Hispanic Americans  in 1960 [3.5%] – Mexican-Americans in SW; Puerto Ricans in NY; Cubans in Miami…
Asians <1%
1960s – US with whites (85%) and blacks (11%) and everybody else (4%)
Today – whites (64%)

 

Two exaggerated problems that universities deemed uniquely situated to solve:

1. The military and ideological threat posed by the Soviet Union

September 1957 – launching of Sputnik by Soviets

2. “PhD Gap” – that the nation had a shortage of teachers with advanced degrees;
They were hiring ABDs to fill vacant or newly created positions

National Defense Education Act (1958) – The high-water mark of the federal government’s linkage of national defense and the support of universities, including the wealthiest privates.

Me as case-in-point:
International Education Act of 1966 – to take up where Ford left off with supporting area studies programs at top universities….

 

The concept of a “meritocracy” – Michael Young, The Rise of the Meritocracy (1958) – British Labour govts….not recommending it….

Akin to T Jefferson’s “aristocracy of talent and virtue” –
Plato’s Guardians
Let the educational system select our leaders – by their measurable intelligence, ambition, work ethic – not family/money/age/blood/military exploits/votes of the majority….

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Any pushback to this post WW II “academic consensus”?

From the left? ?
Communism a discredited faith – public identification as a current believer actionable
Those with radical affiliations  subject to dismissals from teaching posts
Universities pretty good “safe harbors” – Joseph McCarthy notwithstanding
Gene Weltfish (Barnard;  CU PhD in anthropology; lecturer (discontinued in1954)
Harry Grundfest, Mark Van Doren, C. Wright Mills all kept on
Noam Chomsky at MIT

A few “independent scholars/writers” critical of the “academic enclosure” of American intellectual life….
Edmund Wilson/Norman Mailer/Randall Jarrell/Dwight McDonald/Mary McCarthy ….

From the Right/Conservatives?
Were there any?? Many historians  doubted their existence – All Americans are liberals….
Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America (1955) – America without an aristocracy/a church/a feudal past – both parties “liberal” – neither conservative….
Danile Boorstin, Lionel Trilling, Richard Hofstadter…..
Lionel Trilling– The Liberal Imagination (1950)

“In the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole
intellectual tradition.” And later: “But the conservative impulse and the reactionary
impulse…do not, with some isolated and some ecclesiastical exceptions, express
themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to
resemble ideas”

Closest statement to a rebuttal:

William F. Buckley, Jr., God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of Academic Freedom (1951)
Yale was being taken over by those at odds with Yale’s religious (Christian/Protestant) and economic  (capitalistic/free enterprise ) foundations by heathens and socialists
heathens in the religion department
socialists in the economics department (New Dealers, adherents to views of John Maynard Keynes).

Call on his fellow Yale graduates to boycott Yale fundraising until it gets back to its Protestant and capitalistic origins – He a practicing Catholic; his father a freebooting Texas oilman….
Not well received by reviewers and most WASPY Yaleys – annual fund went up….
Scathing review by fellow Yaley and certified WASP McGeorge Bundy at Harvard – Kingman Brewster/John Lindsay

Not the last Americans or Yaleys were to hear from Buckley à National Review (1955) /Firing Line (1966) /ran for NYC mayor against John Lindsay in 1965 … Self-described scourge of the “liberal establishment”
But little traction in 1950s and early 1960s outside a small and not particularly academically situated set of odd ducks…. He smitten with Joe McCarthy and Whittaker Chambers ….

Again, who left out of these “years that were fat”?

Women not among the principal beneficiaries
Post-war universities largely male-dominated – and unapologetically so
Male undergraduate colleges at many major research universities into late 1960s
Yale/Princeton/Columbia/Harvard….
Few women’s colleges with graduate programs – Bryn Mawr/Barnard/ Radcliffe…

Fewer women going to college
Fewer women who went graduating from college
Fewer women with ABs going to graduate school (or professional schools)
Fewer women in graduate school complete their Phds/MDs/JDs
Few women with these degrees get occupationally-relevant jobs
Fewer women who do stay in them…..

1970 – > 30% of CU PhDs awarded in several departments (Art History/English/French/Spanish/Classics/Anthropology) went to women;
These departments had faculties with < 5% women

Correctives on the way:
1. Revival of the women’s movement – gender politics
2. Federal legislation
3. Recognition of some overlap between gender discrimination and racial discrimination
4. Women participating in push for black civil rights (What about us?)
5. Women in the occupied buildings at CU in ’68 (“What about us?”)
6. Federal legislation — > Title IX

 

The Other Late-to-be-invited to the about-to-end party:

African Americans
Majority lived in segregated South into 1960s – education not a federal responsibility…
Segregated/inferior lower schooling at local levels – also the case in north
College-prep courses not in the curriculum…. No college eligibility
If college in south, to segregated/academically inferior  black colleges
Top ones – Howard/Morehouse/Spelman/Fisk/Roosevelt/Meharry…. Furnished Black South with its professionals
Attracted some northern white profs to teach in these schools – encouraged some
to apply for graduate programs….
Attended by the black bourgeoisie of Northeastern US

Blacks with academic appointments at top universities into 1960s:

Kenneth Clark, psychologist  – CU PhD but no CU offer….

University of Chicago: John Hope Franklin  (Fisk 1935; Harvard 1940
From Slavery to Freedom (1947)

At Columbia – a TC professor in anthropology; Charles V. Hamilton in political science (1969)

Post-war legal challenge by NAACP lawyers to the constitutionality of “separate but equal”  doctrine as per Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

Lawyers trained at Howard à by Charles Hamilton Houston (Amherst 1915; Harvard Law)

Thurgood Marshall /Jack Greenberg (CC Dean in late 1980s)

1938:
In Missouri ex el Gaines v. Canada, the Supreme Court ruled that Missouri could not satisfy its obligation to provide equal protection by sending an African American resident to an out-of-state law school and that Lionel Gaines must thus be admitted to the all-white University of Missouri School of Law. This case was the beginning of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s effort to chip away at the separate-but-equal doctrine.

1950: In the Sweatt v. Painter and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents cases, the Court struck down segregation of African American students in law and graduate schools. The Justice Department, in its brief to the Court, said it believed Plessy was unconstitutional and should be overturned. NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyers, led by Thurgood Marshall, began to devise a strategy that would force the Court to re-examine the constitutionality of the separate-but-equal doctrine.

1954: In Brown v. [Topeka]Board of Education, Chief Justice Earl Warren, reading his first major opinion from the bench, said: “We conclude, unanimously, that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
Footnote 11 – citing academic research of Kenneth Clark and  E. Franklin Frazier – Howard/CUSSW — > Howard sociologist à The Black Bourgeoisie (1947)

Case buttressed with research from academic social scientists
CCNY psychologist Kenneth Clark —

1957 – September – Little Rock/Governor Faubus v. President Eisenhower

1963 – August — March on Washington

1963—November – JFK assassination à LBJ as president

1964 – Public accommodations legislation

1965 – Voting rights legislation

Not until early 1960s do top colleges and universities [and foundations/ prep schools ]  become pro-active [take “affirmative action”] in encouraging  AAs to apply and providing scholarship support
At BC and CC – classes entering in 1964 —
BC – 15 recruited black students in class of 500; CC – 30 in class of 600; SEAS – 5 in class of 400
50 in entering frosh classes of 1500
1964-65  50
1965-66  90
1966-67  130
1967-68  175 [Hamilton Hall occupiers??]

Comparable numbers elsewhere among Ivies/Sisters

Grievances –
1. Black experience largely absent from curriculum;
2. Black faculty virtually non-existent (Quandra Prettyman in English; a man in Education Program);
3. Few blacks in upper levels of administration/deans  in a City with black population >20%

Black students would play big roles in campus protests at:
Columbia in 1968
Harvard and Cornell in 1969
Kent State and Jackson State in 1970

Advances that women and blacks make making themselves a place in the university in the late 1960s and 1970s were to come in an era when universities had lost much of their earlier public favor,  had ceased expanding and were going through a tough financial patch – nowhere was this more the case than at Columbia in the 1970s and Barnard in the 1980s.

Last updated: April 11, 2014
ram31@columbia.edu

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