Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow

The Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow Exhibit at the Florida Holocaust Museum, sponsored by the Boxser Diversity Initiative has just finished. The Exhibit commenced on October 21, 2011 and ended on January 21, 2012.

The exhibit tells the little-known story of Jewish academics from Germany and Austria who were booted out of their teaching positions by the Nazis in the 1930s. Some of these scholars fled to the United States where they were welcomed into jobs at historically black colleges and universities. Ironically they escaped Fascism in Europe only to land in the deeply segregated Jim Crow South. The exhibit explores what it meant to the black students at Southern institutions to have these highly intellectual and cultured white professors as their teachers and friends…and the impact American racism had on the refugees as they assimilated into American life. Many became active members of the Civil Rights movement and made significant contributions to changing lives in their new communities. The exhibit is based on a book of the same title by Gabrielle Simon Edgcomb.

For more information, please see the articles below:

Click here to read Sarasota Herald Tribune article.

Observer article 11032011

Complementing the Exhibition, the Diversity Initiative organized four major programs to underscore the importance of this Exhibit.

On October 13th, there was a panel discussion involving former students of the German, Jewish Professors.

Panel discussion with:

• Professor Donald Cunnigen—Moderator, former student at Tougaloo College

• Professors Georg and Wilma Iggers—Scholars and civil rights activists. Professor Georg Iggers is the only living professor who was involved in the program. Click here to read SUNY University at Buffalo article.

• Dr. Joyce Ladner –Student at Tougaloo College (one of the Black colleges in the exhibit) and former administrator at Howard University

• Dr. Beverly Hogan – Student at Tougaloo College and its current president.

Boxser_diversity updated front for sliderOn November 14 th, Bonnie Gurewitsch, the curator of the Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow discussed her exhibit (see below):

Temple Beth Sholom diversity program draws hundreds to learn about “Beyond Swastika to Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges”

(Sarasota, Fla)—A crowd of more than 350 filled the sanctuary at Temple Beth Sholom on November 14 at 6 p.m. for a curator’s talk by Bonnie Gurewitsch, archivist and curator of the Jewish Heritage Museum in New York City, who came to Sarasota to discuss her exhibit “Beyond Swastika to Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges”. Currently on display until Jan. 21, 2012 at the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, the exhibit is sponsored locally by the Herman and Sally Boxser Diversity Initiative of Temple Beth Sholom. The diversity program was co-sponsored by ASALH, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

Dan Boxser, son of Herman and Sally, introduced Gurewitsch, who explained the history of Jewish exile professors and scholars that found their way to black colleges in the Deep South after being expelled from their teaching positions in Nazi Germany and Austria during World War II. Escaping religious hatred and persecution, they discovered kindred spirits in the African-American experience of Jim Crow segregation.

Gurewitsch related the events that brought about 55 Jewish academics to southern colleges, where they became intimately woven into the local black culture, forging close bonds and greatly influencing their students’ lives and careers. These professors successfully bridged a gap between whites and blacks that profoundly affected the future of the civil rights movement.

Chazzan Diane Nathanson of Temple Beth Sholom and members of the Gulf Coast Community Choir sang a combination of Hebrew songs and traditional spirituals that matched the evening’s historic events: uplifting atmosphere. A dessert reception in the social hall followed the program. “It was a pleasure to host such an important event,” said Mitch Weiss, executive director of Temple Beth Sholom. “Partnering with ASALH and The Florida Holocaust Museum was a wonderful experience

Bonnnie Gurewitsch and Joyce Ladner, student and SNCC Organizer On December 6 th , Heidi Beirich, Director of Reseach Hate & Extremism at the Southern Poverty Law Center presented a program about the “State of Racism in the United States Today.”

Finally, on January 12, 2012, the Boxser Diversity Initiative sponsored a Freedom Riders Evening, designed to bring Freedom Riders to tell about Experiences on Civil Right Buses 1961-1963.

The Moderator was Raymond Arsenault. Arsenault is the author of Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (Oxford University Press, 2006) which received the Frank L. and Harriet C. Owsley Award from the Southern Historical Association.

Along with his lecture, Dr. Arsenault provided extensive commentary on the PBS documentary on the Freedom Riders and on the Oprah Winfrey Show Also participating was Bernard Lafayette, a civil rights activist, Freedom Rider and one of the founders of SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

Click here to read Wikipedia article on Bernard Lafayette.