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December 13, 2013

White flight from city centers to better neighborhood schools has finally reached America’s ivy-covered college campuses.

That was the finding of a recent report from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. In the report, Georgetown Professor Anthony Carnevale said the nation’s higher-education system is one of "racially separate and unequal institutions.”

On Friday’s Basic Black, Craig Wilder, Professor of History at MIT and author of the new book Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery and the Troubled History of America's Universities, explored the connection of slavery to the beginnings of America's Ivy League schools.

Wilder said that alongside church and state, ivy league schools were the third pillar of a civilization based on bondage, perpetuating slaves' subordination in society.  

"When Thomas Jefferson went to William and Mary, about 10 percent of the boys at the school in that time period come to college with their slaves," Wilder said. "They pay an additional fee to house their slaves on campus. The college itself actually owned dozens of people who took care of the grounds. They cook the food. They often, at many colleges, worked farms that supplied the college with the food it needed to sustain itself."

In Massachusetts, Wilder said, the presidents of Harvard had personal slaves to run errands. 

So how does this historical knowledge impact the contemporary relationship between African Americans and the nations most elite educational establishments?

In August, WGBH’s On Campus reported on Georgetown’s report that suggests higher education is exacerbating white racial privilege in America. Listen back to that story here:

ivy league, MIT, increasing access and success, Basic Black

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