The Seminars

Columbia University & Slavery Seminar: History 3518

As a public-history initiative, the Columbia University and Slavery Seminar aspires to do more than the standard undergraduate seminar, guiding students through the process of creating a piece of original research that is made accessible to a broad audience. Student research is at the core of this ongoing work, and is also a critical part of the Residence Halls Historical Markers project.

The Course Now

The Columbia University and Slavery Seminar is currently overseen by a collective of four faculty: Stephanie McCurry, Frank Guridy, Thai Jones, and Karl Jacoby.   

The research seminar explores the connections between Columbia University and histories of enslavement. It is part of a multiyear effort to trace and reveal these links and joins seminars being taught at universities around the world that are engaged in similar efforts.

The Course's Evolution

In Spring 2015, Pulitzer Prize-winning History Professor Eric Foner led a research course on the role of slavery in Columbia’s early history. At the end of the Spring 2015 semester, Foner’s class of undergraduates presented their novel findings to both their professor and President Lee C. Bollinger. From those discussions, the Columbia University & Slavery Project was initiated to draw on further research to be conducted by faculty and students, and student work has continued in subsequent semesters.

Since Eric Foner's retiirement the course has been taught by Thai Jones, Department of History Lecturer; Karl Jacoby, Allan Nevins Professor of American History; Elizabeth Blackmar, Mary and David Boies Professor of American History; Stephanie McCurry, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History in Honor of Dwight D. Eisenhower; and Joshua Morrison, Columbia & Slavery Post-Doctoral Research Fellow. In addition, Mary Freeman, who earned her PhD in History at Columbia University in 2018, served as the Teaching Assistant for the course for several years.  

The resulting student and faculty research has been the foundation of this website and has launched ongoing efforts to discover, explore, and share what is learned about Columbia's relationship to enslavement and enslaved peoples, about ongoing systemic -- and sometimes violent -- racism on campus, and about ongoing antiracism work and activism at Columbia University.