This book surprises. It focuses, for one thing, on the northeastern United States, not on the southern states where slavery was anchored. The chronological focus, with half its space devoted to the colonial period and to implications of colleges for American Indians, is also not what a reader might expect, given that most American colleges were founded in the antebellum era.

Most surprising, perhaps, the story is less about individual universities than it is about the networks that created and sustained them. Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities is a powerful bill of indictment, unrelenting and unforgiving. The evidence is clear, and Craig Steven Wilder’s account is single-minded and persuasive. The book includes few extended histories of individual colleges, for they are all presented as nodes in larger systems.

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Book Review

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Copyright © 2015 The Southern Historical Association. This article first appeared in The Journal of Southern History 81: 1 (2015), 178-179.

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