Universities,slavery and a reconciliation

In 1976, archivists at Harvard’s natural history museum opened a drawer and discovered a haunting portrait of a shirtless enslaved man named Renty, gazing sorrowfully but steadily at the camera. Taken on a South Carolina plantation in 1850, it had been used by the Harvard biologist Louis Agassiz to formulate his now-discredited ideas about racial difference.

On Friday, Harvard’s president, Drew Gilpin Faust, stood at a lectern under a projection of Renty’s face and began a rather different enterprise: a major public conference exploring the long-neglected connections between universities and slavery.

Harvard had been “directly complicit” in slavery, Ms. Faust acknowledged, before moving to a more present-minded statement of purpose.

“Only by coming to terms with history,” she said, “can we free ourselves to create a more just world.”

The gathering, which featured a keynote address by the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, drew an overflow crowd of about 500, including researchers from more than 30 campuses. Between sessions, there was plenty of chatter about grants and administration politics, as well as some wry amazement, as one scholar was overheard saying that “something we’ve been talking about for 200 years has suddenly become urgent.”

Alfred L. Brophy, a legal historian at the University of North Carolina and the author of “University, Court and Slave,” a study of pro-slavery thought at antebellum Southern colleges, described what he called a “sea change” in attitude.

“People who engaged in this research were once criticized, or had their jobs threatened, or were rejected by their administrations,” he said in an interview. “Now the people doing this work are lifted up.”



The history department is pleased to announce that a Nazareth student and faculty member participated in the annual Phi Alpha Theta national history honor society conference held at SUNY Brockport, on March 4, 2017.
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Timothy Thibodeau and Julia Madore 2017

Julia Madore of Utica presented a paper on early Etruscan art titled, “Billy or Billygoat: The Metropolitan Museum’s Pendant, Woman Carrying a Child.” She earned a “Best of the Conference” award for her paper and was honored with all of the award recipients in the closing ceremony.

In all, there were 39 papers from 9 colleges and universities in western New York state.

Dr. Timothy Thibodeau, faculty adviser for the Nazareth chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, was the keynote speaker and delivered a speech titled, “The Historian’s Craft: Taking the Long View.”

Blizzard of 1977…

Snow buries a car on Tudor Road in Buffalo suburb of Cheektowaga


Rochester and the Finger Lakes region gets its share of winter weather, but a blizzard 40 years ago this week – on January 28, 1977 – paralyzed Buffalo and its suburbs.

The Blizzard of ’77 gripped the region for five days, was blamed for 29 deaths, closed schools for two weeks, and led President Jimmy Carter to declare a federal emergency.

Timothy Kneeland, professor and chair of the history and political science department at Nazareth College has released his new book The Buffalo Blizzard of 1977. 

Click in the LISTEN link above and hear Kneeland talk about how media coverage of the blizzard cemented Buffalo’s reputation as America’s Siberia, a cold and snow-covered outpost. But many Western New Yorkers who survived the blizzard remember it as a time when neighbors pulled together to help each other.Buffalo Blizzard of 1977