Bruce Kuklick: Interviewed by HNN about his new biography of an African-American intellectualHistorians in the News
Who was William Fontaine?
One of the first, if not the first, African American scholars to cross the color line in the then segregated world of higher education. He taught at the University of Pennsylvania from 1947-1968.
What brought you to wright on Fontaine, and what do you hope the reader will glean from his story?
He was a mentor of mine, and in some ways I wrote it to pay a personal debt. The major theme is that Fontaine and members of his generation who spent their lives in white institutions paid an enormous personal price. It was not heroic or glamorous, but psychologically difficult and demanding.
Fast-forwarding to the present, there are those black intellectuals who've said they wouldn't teach at historically black colleges and universities because they can't compete financially with the Ivies and their equivalents. There are those that would reasonably find this perplexing, but at the same time it is exciting to see so many African-Americans on faculty at the Ivy institutions they were historically restricted from. What do you make of this?
Scholars who are in it for the money are a disgrace. I think it is still true today that the HBCUs nurture their mostly black students in ways that schools with mostly white students do not nurture their black students. I would look forward to a time when the universities were color blind in respect to both hiring faculty and enrolling students, but that time is a long way off.
comments powered by Disqus
- When Jim Crow Reigned Amid the Rubble of Nazi Germany
- Why Suburban American Homeowners Were Accused of Being a 'Profit-Making Cartel' in the 1970s
- Animals large and small once covered North America’s prairies – and in some places, they could again
- Library of Congress acquires major archive of African American photographer Shawn Walker
- A farm boy became a fearsome warrior at Iwo Jima. And he did it with a flamethrower.
- Trump and the Christians: Evangelical historian John Fea on decoding the great paradox
- Six historians weigh in on the biggest misconceptions about black history
- Renowned presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin finally takes on George Washington
- Legal Historian Jed Shugerman Says William Barr's Actions Are "Remarkably Not Normal"
- Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat Quoted in Washington Post Article on Trump's Quest to Rewrite History