About This Project
“A Campus Divided: Progressives, Anticommunists, Racism and Antisemitism at the University of Minnesota 1930-1942” began as a project initiated by Professor Riv-Ellen Prell, an anthropologist. She became interested in the history of the University of Minnesota in the 1930s when she learned about political surveillance on the campus initiated by the Dean of Student Affairs, Edward Nicholson, in an article by Hyman Berman about the 1938 Gubernatorial election in Minnesota. Nicholson collaborated with Ray P. Chase, a Minnesota Republican operative who was committed to defeating progressives in the state.
Extensive research with the papers of Ray Chase and University papers of the president and deans, by Ph.D. candidate Sarah Atwood, revealed that the University of Minnesota was, in this same period, creating segregated housing for undergraduate and graduate students. Student activists on the campus were addressing the central issues of the day—war, economic depression, student rights, and racism and antisemitism. These efforts were threatened by University administrators.
Despite the ongoing efforts by administrators to suppress activism, students were remarkably successful at creating change.
Virtually no one at the University knew this history of surveillance or segregation. The physical exhibit opened a broad set of conversations across the University about how to address this history. The exhibit opened in the midst of nation-wide activism about racism, the legacy of the Confederacy and statues celebrating its heroes, both in cities and on university campuses. Public history is central to addressing who is remembered, who is forgotten, and the responsibility all citizens share to engage these issues.
“A Campus Divided: Progressives, Anticommunists, Racism and Antisemitism at the University of Minnesota 1930-1942”
Andersen Library, University of Minnesota, August 14-December 22, 2017