Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

(Really, Really) Old School Friday: 19th Century Tabloid Blasts Harvard Abolitionists

May 15th, 2009 by Ajuan Mance

The anti-slavery writings of Theodore Parker, Harvard class of 1831, inspired politicians and activists from Abraham Lincoln to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but he didn’t impress the pro-slavery partisans at the New York Herald.


New York is and probably will always be my favorite city. It is the home to so many of the cultural and intellectual institutions and legacies that are dear to me. It is, however, also home to some things that we’d probably be better off without.

One of those is The New York Herald, what PBS’s American Experience calls Americans “first major ‘scandal sheet.'” The Herald made its bread and butter off of rumors, rants, gossip, and a steady stream of strident, pro-slavery tirades. The Herald was a staunch and shameless supporter of the enslavement of Black people.

Consider, for example, this passage, in which the Herald equates the presence of vocal abolitionsts on the Harvard University campus with high treason against the United States. This short piece was reprinted in Frederick Douglass’ Paper on August 24, 1855, as evidence of the Herald’s unapologetic racism:

HARVARD COLLEGE AGAIN. Old Harvard is fairly earning the reputation, of being an Abolition College . The only subject conscientiously taught there appears to be treason. The authorities would not confirm Judge Loring, though he was apparently the best man for the law chair, because he would not perjure himself; nor would they grant a degree to Mr. Elliot, because he had voted for the compromise Measures. According to the code of morals in force at Harvard, no Southern man deserves collegiate honors. Nay, more, no Northern man can attain the highest rank in learning, letters or science, unless he agree with the Harvard people in politics. Thus, Daniel Webster would not have been deemed fit for honors, nor neither of the Adams’s, nor John Hancock, nor any of the Revolutionary heroes of New England. The only men, according to the authorities of Harvard, who deserve to be decorated with collegiate degrees, are Theodore Parker, William Lloyd Garrison, Gerrit Smith, Frederick Douglass, and a few others of that school. To such a depth has sunk the oldest collegiate institution in the United States! N.Y. Herald .

(Source: Accesible Archives)


Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in Academia, African Americans, Black History, Harvard University, Higher Education, race

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