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During the recent convention of the Democratic Party, Michelle Obama said something that sur- prised many. “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves,” she told the audience of delegates. And that is a historical fact. Another historical fact is that some of the most venerable American universities also have strong ties to slav- ery, not only because some of them were built by slaves, but also because many of their founders and major benefactors were either slave holders or pub- licly supported slavery or clearly racist policies.

These troublesome facts were revived recent- ly due to an incident that took place last June at Yale University. Corey Menafee, a dishwasher in Calhoun College’s dining hall (one of Yale’s residential colleges), purposely broke a stained- glass window with a broomstick because of its racial imagery. The window included images of slaves carrying cotton bales, which he described as “racist, very degrading,” according to the local press. Menafee, who faced felony and misde- meanor charges, told reporters that although he regretted what he did, his act was a gesture of civil disobedience.

This work was originally published in The Edwardsville Intelligencer.

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