Friday, February 8, 2008

University of Maryland's Course on Slavery

On the heels of William and Mary's discussion of its connections to slavery, the University of Maryland has announced that Ira Berlin and a graduate student will teach a two-semester course for thirty undergraduates, which will research the University of Maryland's connections to slavery. The Diamond Back, the University of Maryland's student newspaper, has all the details. Sounds like an excellent course to me. The Diamond Back also has an editorial about this.

Will be most interesting to see where this all goes. I find it interesting and worth more in-depth conversation at some point what happened with the state apologies for their connections to slavery last year. In every state except Maryland, that I can recall at least, politicians took the lead and did not draw on academics. (In Maryland some of the start academics, like Ron Walters, testified before the legislature, as I recall.) It struck me at the time as an odd disconnect: historians have some expertise in this area. They're also all over the map. James Cobb at the University of Georgia wrote a piece for the New Republic on-line edition criticizing state legislatures' apologies for slavery. (Here's an earlier version from Cobb's website; I can't find a working link to the New Republic piece.) In the most recent American Scholar Gorman Beauchamp also takes on apologies--in stronger terms than Cobb. This relates in some ways to the discussion of the Einhorn--Wood debate from the pages of the New York Review of Books last fall, which continued here at legalhistoryblog. And I suspect that lots of historians would be wildly pro-apology. Anyway, I thought it strange that more historians weren't asked to testify as part of the apology debates. But perhaps that's because we academics work on rather different schedules and with different questions from politicians. It's hard to know.

At any rate, I look forward to hearing more about this.

Thanks to Terry Meyers of William and Mary for bringing this to my attention.