© Yale University Library, 2008
Blassingame (GRD '71) and Henry Louis Gates,
Jr. (CC '73) (left) came to Yale as students. Blassingame, a history
professor at Yale, and Gates, the W.E.B. Dubois Professor of Humanities
and Chairman of the African-American studies department at Harvard, are
now two of the preeminent scholars of African-American life, past and present.
Both came from the rural South to New Haven and Yale during the years of
the last years of the Civil Rights movement, the Bobby Seale trial, and
the Black Panthers . The incongruity of a rural southern African-American
at a wealthy, elite university in an urban setting created unique tensions
and new ways of understanding the South and the relationship of African-Americans
to the South.
Professor Edward Ayers (GRD '79), Hugh P. Kelly Professor of History at the University of Virginia, said, "Yale, in short, made me see the South through eyes other than my own. In a very real sense, it gave me the South." Now one of the foremost scholars of the American South, Ayers came to Yale with no overwhelming interest in the region of his birth but left with a new vision.
Yale's urban New England environment gave many southerners the opportunity to begin the process of understanding the South. They defined the South for themselves but also for the others around them. Exploring the lives of nearly three centuries of southern Yalies, the stereotypes of both the South and New England dissolve. In their place, new ways of seeing emerge attesting to the many Souths that exist within the past and the present.Overview reprinted Courtesy of The New Journal