miércoles, 27 de febrero de 2019


Slavery in the Hands of Harvard is a small but remarkably effective look at the historical ties and intersections between the school and the varied institutions of slavery.

Robert Moeller

Jonathan M. Square, “Freedom Papers?” (2019) (all images courtesy of Jonathan M. Square, photos by Myk Ostrowski)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass — In the summer of 2009, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was returning from a trip to China and had difficulty entering his home in Cambridge. Apparently the front door was jammed. Both he and his driver tried to open it before going around to a side entrance. A neighbor noticed the two men struggling with the door and called the police. What followed engulfed the nation in a heated conversation about race and, more specifically, racial profiling by police. The conversation entered its absurdist phase when President Obama invited both Gates and James Crowley, the officer who arrested him, to the now infamous “Beer Summit” at the White House. Obama’s even-handed management of the circumstances around the arrest pleased no one at the time.
It all seems rather innocent now: an African American’s encounter with the police ending peacefully — albeit after an arrest — and afterwards all aggrieved parties sharing conciliatory smiles and handshakes at the White House with the President. It is a sharp contrast to the now painfully familiar results of numerous instances in which deadly police force ends the conversation all too abruptly.
Gates’s arrest had very little to do with Harvard other than the fact that he taught there and lived in university housing. It also had everything to do with Harvard: if Gates, a high-profile academic, could be arrested for “breaking into” his own home just blocks away from Harvard’s main campus then what were encounters with police like for the average African American? Even in an ostensibly progressive city like Cambridge the deck still seemed stacked against fairness, and indeed, common sense when it came to the relationship between police and African Americans.
Slavery in the Hands of Harvard, curated by Dr. Jonathan M. Square, is a small but remarkably effective look at both Gates’s arrest and, more specifically, the historical ties and intersections between the school and the varied institutions of slavery. Square, a Harvard professor and first-time curator, deftly navigates the history of racism that exists across the school and investigates how that history still resonates today. Through original works by several contemporary artists and reproductions of materials from Harvard’s vast archives, Square establishes a series of historical markers that vibrate with personal experiences……………


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