The DuSable Museum of African American History

Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges

Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges

About IMages

Professor Ernst Borinski teaching in the Social Science Lab, Tougaloo College, MS, ca. 1960. Prof. Borinski, a refugee from Germany, was part of the Tougaloo community for thirty-six years. In the Social Science Lab, students were encouraged to think critically and question social attitudes, prejudices, and race relations. His tombstone in the campus cemetery reads: “Ernst Borinski, Inspiring Teacher.” Courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archives and History


By the time World War II began on September 1, 1939, Germany had purged itself of its Jewish professors, scientists, and scholars. Some of these academics, deprived of their livelihoods by the Nazis, found refuge in the United States. But in this new world, they faced an uncertain future. A few dozen refugee scholars unexpectedly found positions in historically black colleges in the American South. There, as recent escapees from persecution in Nazi Germany, they came face to face with the absurdities of a rigidly segregated Jim Crow society. In their new positions, they met, taught, and interacted with students who had grown up in, and struggled with, this racist environment. Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow explores the unlikely coming together of these two groups, each the object of exclusion and hatred, and examines the ongoing encounter between them as they navigated the challenges of life in the segregated South.

Organized by the Museum of Jewish Heritage



This project is partially supported by a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events