If You Call It History, You’ve Got to Do History’: Historians Chafe at a Video That Omitted Their University’s Whites-Only OriginsHistorians in the News
tags: higher education, academia, Louisiana Tech
When Louisiana Tech University opened its doors, in 1895, its inaugural students had to be at least 14 years of age, pass a mathematics exam, and be able to read, write, and spell with “tolerable correctness.”
They also had to be white.
But that crucial qualification is not mentioned in a nine-minute video about the institution’s 125-year history, posted last week on YouTube.
There’s a growing movement among colleges and universities, especially in the South, to grapple with their racist legacies, rooted in chattel slavery and perpetuated in its aftermath. Scholars, along with students and community activists, are often the ones driving universities to acknowledge that they were founded by white people, for white people — often by white men, for white men.
Within that national context, “it certainly is odd, to put it mildly,” that Louisiana Tech does not mention in the video that the institution was segregated for about 70 years — more than half of its existence, said John Worsencroft, an assistant professor of history at the institution. Universities are in the business of selling their stories. They want a narrative of progress, Worsencroft said, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But that narrative only means something, he said, when it’s underpinned by historical knowledge.
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