Jewish during Jim Crow

Staff Writer

In the 1930s, some Jewish professors from Germany and Austria who fled to America to avoid Nazism found teaching positions at historically Black colleges and universities in the South during the time of Jim Crow “separate but equal” segregation laws. The DuSable Museum of African American History is presenting a new art exhibit that explores the experiences of the Black students and their European Jewish professors.

The exhibit, “Beyond the Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges,” will open on Monday, Jan. 20, in conjunction with the museum’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration and continue through Sunday, April 13, at DuSable, 740 E. 56th Pl.

Inspired by Gabrielle Simon Edgcomb’s landmark book, “From Swastika to Jim Crow: Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges” and the subsequent PBS documentary by Joel Sucher and Steven Fischler of Pacific Street Films, the exhibit looks at the empathy between two minority groups with a history of persecution, some of who came together in search of freedom and opportunity and shared the early years of struggle in the civil rights movement.

Highlights of the exhibit include artifacts, photographs and two new films by Sucher and Fischler, featuring both the professors and the students. It begins with the dismissal of the refugee scholars from German universities and continues through their search for positions in the United States. The exhibition then highlights the backgrounds of the Black students and follows the professors and students coming together to teach and learn and to share a community on campus.
Curated by the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City, the exhibition has traveled nationally since 2010.
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