Excerpted From: Gabriel Jack Chin, Gregory Downs, Mary Louise Frampton, and Beth Rose Middleton Manning, Beyond Black and White: Transcript of the Free People of Color Symposium Discussing Campus Approaches to Race in Twentieth-Century West Coast Universities and a Racial Justice Audit Template for Universities, 27 U.C. Davis Social Justice Law Review 75 (Summer, 2023) (110 Footnotes) (Full Document Requested)


Chin Downs Frampton ManningSince Brown University's 2006 Slavery and Justice Report, universities have wrestled openly and sometimes in agonized fashion over the relationship between their historic roots and their contemporary setting. “Why risk opening the chapters of the past that are, inevitably, controversial and painful?” the report asked. Although the 100-page report was itself an elaborate answer to that question, the report also embraced a “simpler” and compelling rationale: “Brown is a university ... If an institution professing these principles cannot squarely face its own history, it is hard to imagine how any other institution, let alone our nation, might do so.”

As Brown's report argued, universities have engaged in this work because of the necessity of responding to shifting cultural demands and social realities. These did not primarily emerge from new discoveries about slavery, the slave trade, and racism--which had long historiographies by 2006. Rather, they derived from new cultural currents, inside the academy and out, that eventually drew attention to the enduring impact of slavery and Jim Crow upon the nation, fueling and drawing energy from racial justice and reparations movements, especially the Movement for Black Lives. In many ways this is an extraordinarily heartening development for scholars like the four of us, who devote our lives to examining white supremacy in the United States and who care about the universities we work for and their impact on the students we teach.

Beyond Brown, there are many important and laudable markers: a 2005-2006 exhibit at University of North Carolina, and a 2011 conference at Emory University. Both brought the issue to southern universities and encouraged rich scholarly cross-pollination. Craig Steven Wilder's lauded 2013 study of the broader relationship between slavery and elite education, Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities, accelerated the reckoning in both scholarly and public circles. Projects at Columbia, Georgetown, and Harvard, among others, centered slavery and Jim Crow in the nation's elite private institutions. High Country News' illuminating 2020 report examined the “land grab” foundation of land grant universities whose endowments come directly from the seizure and sale of Native lands. In response, UC Berkeley's 2020 two-part symposium, “The University of California Land Grab: A Legacy of Profit from Indigenous Land,” offered recommendations to address this legacy, and other universities have established initiatives and endowments to reckon with their land grant and land grab histories. In the especially troubled public universities of the American southeast, scholars have undertaken heroic work in the face of political opposition at universities like Alabama and Georgia. In the north, this work has been seen, and at Rutgers University. At Princeton, the Wilson Legacy Review Committee provided a model for reckoning with Jim Crow after wrestling with the legacy of Woodrow Wilson, a prominent champion of segregation whose appointees relentlessly worked to marginalize and exclude Black federal workers at the campus he helped construct. Scholars Hilary Green, formerly at Alabama University and now at Davidson College, and Adam Domby, at Auburn University, are preparing a roundtable to discuss these efforts.

We embrace and learn from these efforts. Yet, from our vantage between the Sierras and the Pacific Ocean, they seem to only provide motivation, not a complete set of tenable models for universities west of the Mississippi River. Without further models, we risk replicating the American exceptionalist, liberal nationalist view that the United States is a story with one original sin--slavery. Such a vision excludes much of the country, which would be heartening if it meant that issues of racism did not impact those regions.

Of course, that is not true since settler colonialism first shaped the U.S. experience, including the creation and development of U.S. universities. Without taking up the problematic nature of the word “sin,” only a combined focus on the two crimes of settler colonialism and slavery can provide a basis for understanding and narrating U.S. history. Promising work has begun on settler colonialism in the study of U.S. universities. The “Land-Grab Universities” report and digital project has already transformed classroom teaching. Scholars gathered in 2021-2022 for Southern Methodist University's Clements Center for Southwest Studies conference on “Campuses and Colonialism,” which will produce a volume edited by Stephen Kantrowitz, Malinda Maynor Lowery, and Alyssa Mt. Pleasant. The premises of that conference helped determine our approach. Still, the emphasis on troubled nineteenth century history risks emphasizing the distance of racial exclusion on campus from the present day, narrowing multiple racial exclusions to a single story, and underplaying twentieth century patterns of exclusion that more directly shape contemporary campuses. They also risk making illegible West Coast universities' often distinct narratives of exclusion and displacement in what has always been a multi-racial society, including questions of slavery and land seizure, multi-racial segregation on twentieth century campuses, Japanese incarceration during World War II, and the cultural practices of majority-white student bodies as increasing numbers of non-white students enrolled in the post-war period.

Neither the process of settler colonialism nor the legal and (often violent) cultural struggles over multi-racialism and white supremacy concluded with emancipation, Brown vs. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or the election of Barack Obama, to state the obvious. All endure, and this endurance is precisely what makes West Coast studies of campus history so problematic. They trace to the endurance of ongoing (sometimes celebrated) practices, not the legacy or afterlives of old practices.

From our vantage point, we work and live inside a university shaped by slavery, settler colonialism, and the less-explored history of other racial groups and the U.S. university. This is an issue present on every campus, heightened by the early history of California's legacy of anti-Asian exclusion and violence, attacks on Sonoran and Chilean miners, and massive migration. We convened this symposium to ask how West Coast universities might approach questions that emerge in a study of racism on their campuses, and how to provide models that will be useful and necessary throughout the country.

In this virtual symposium that took place on April 20, 2022, Beth Rose Middleton Manning of UC Davis, Charles Petersen of Cornell University, Charles Reichmann of UC Berkeley Law, Virginia Scharff of University of New Mexico, and Stacey Smith of Oregon State University presented remarks and answered questions. The following is the transcript of the symposium, with an introduction by Dean Kevin Johnson of UC Davis Law School and facilitation by the graduate student organizers from UC Davis, Wendy A. Garcia Nava, Khrystan Policarpio, and Yutong Zhan.

As the speakers' remarks show, the stakes are high, and this is what makes the study of West Coast universities and the history of racism so potentially challenging and so necessary.


[. . .]


We have been inspired by the work done by the speakers at this symposium and by other scholars who studied the histories of their own institutions. We want to know, and intend to explore, the history of racial inclusion and exclusion at our own institution. This symposium is a preliminary exploration of the question of how West Coast universities should scrutinize the history of their involvement with race. In the United States, East Coast and southeastern universities have led the way in uncovering their institutional engagement with American apartheid. They have examined whether and how they or their leaders were involved in the slave trade, or even owned enslaved persons themselves. In some cases, these universities were segregated by law, and were desegregated only by highly visible litigation or federal force.

These models do not provide a ready roadmap for West Coast universities, which are mainly located in states that never had legal African chattel slavery, and in some cases the universities or the states themselves came into being only after the legal changes wrought by the Civil War and Reconstruction. Yet, this hardly means that West Coast universities never faced racial questions. Some western states, like the eastern and southern, had their own versions of the traditional incidents of Jim Crow-- school segregation, prohibitions on interracial marriage, restrictive covenants, and regimes of discrimination in public accommodations and employment. At least after the Civil War, it may be that the legal treatment and status of Asians and Native Americans was a more prominent issue in the west and southwest than it was in most parts of the east.

We want to understand whether and how the University of California, Davis engaged in, celebrated, exposed, or resisted the racial discrimination prevalent in California since the University's founding. The following is the list of topics and subjects we intend to explore--not necessarily in order of importance. It is unavoidably contingent and partial, subject to revision based on what we find and learn. Nevertheless, once it is completed, we hope to have significant insight into a question which now seems obscure.

Names. Who are the campus buildings and schools named after? Why were they chosen?

Land. Where did the land now owned by the campus come from, specifically? Which Native nations was it wrested from, and has the university built any relationships with those nations? Have those nations received any remuneration for lands taken? Were there also other communities who were displaced by university development? When? Who are they, and have they received any remuneration?

Admission and Employment Policies. Were there formal or informal policies excluding people of particular races, genders, or citizenship or immigration status from academic programs? From working or teaching?

Dormitory/program segregation. In programs which offered non-discriminatory admission, were there particular activities or opportunities which were limited by race?

Event Study: Position/Policies of University and Community. During the university's existence, there were many great social issues decided in California and the nation as a whole. How, if at all, did the university and its leaders respond? These might include:

• Woman Suffrage and the Nineteenth Amendment

• Segregation of the federal Civil Service under President Woodrow Wilson

• California's 1913 and 1920 Anti-Japanese Alien Land Law

• The 1924 Immigration Act

• Japanese American Incarceration during World War II.

• 1911 through 1948 Civil Rights Decisions of the U.S Supreme Court

• 1954 Brown v. Board of Education

Review of Student Newspaper, Yearbook, and Other University Publications. Did publications use racist language? Did they publish blackface, brownface, yellowface, or redface photographs or other racial mockery? Did they report on racial incidents? What do the photographs and articles reveal about segregation or integration of sports teams, Greek letter organizations, other student groups?

Oral Histories. What alumni and faculty are available to share their recollections of the campus in previous generations?

Community Review. In the larger community (in our case, Davis, and Yolo County, California), is there segregation or civil rights ordinances? Does the community appear to have segregated housing and employment, as revealed by, for example, newspaper advertisements or restrictive covenants?

Contemporary Issues. What is the university doing now? Is there a land acknowledgement? Is there a memorandum of understanding with the tribes that were the original stewards of the land? Have there been studies of the climate for non-white students, staff, and faculty?

Gabriel Jack Chin, Edward L. Barrett Jr. Chair and Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law.

Gregory Downs, Professor of History, UC Davis.

Mary Louise Frampton, and Professor Emerita, UC Davis School of Law.

Beth Rose Middleton Manning, Professor of Native American Studies, UC Davis.