Tag Archives: history

MIT and the Task of History

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege to participate in one of the most interesting and important dialogues I have been involved in as a historian.  The occasion was the second of a series of forums on the “MIT and Slavery” project, an investigation of MIT’s relationship to slavery that MIT’s President Rafael Reif commissioned at the end of last academic year.  The project has been spearheaded by my colleague Craig Wilder, who had the brilliant idea of creating an undergraduate research seminar (along with MIT archivist Nora Murphy) to undertake the investigation.  The first forum in the series featured Craig and Nora as well as T.A. Claire Kim and a genuinely spectacular cohort of undergrads, who spoke on that day with a composure and degree of insight one would expect to see from an advanced historian (video here).  The second forum, in which I was joined by Craig and MIT SHASS Dean Melissa Nobles as well as historians Tanalís Padilla and Lerna Ekmekçioğlu, was a follow-up response to questions from the MIT community about the purpose of studying this chapter of MIT’s past.  The panel opened up onto a broader discussion of “the power of historical knowledge to make a better world,” from which I learned a great deal (not least by way of the lively Q&A with the audience that followed).  A video recording of the event can be found here, and a news summary here.  The event was organized by Emily Hiestand of the MIT SHASS Dean’s office.