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Craig Steven Wilder

Craig Steven Wilder

“Institutions that promote the pursuit of truth and knowledge need to be honest about themselves,” Professor Craig Steven Wilder told students. Professor Wilder, an MIT history faculty member and author, was this year’s Heyburn Lecturer. In researching and writing his latest book, Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities, Professor Wilder revealed nearly universal connections between the earliest American educational institutions and slavery. Professor Wilder received his bachelor’s degree from Fordham University, and a master’s, master of philosophy and Ph.D. from Columbia. In addition to Ebony and Ivy, he is the author of A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn; and In the Company of Black Men: The African Influence on African American Culture in New York City. His has written essays for Slavery’s Capitalism and wrote the inaugural essay in the digital journal New York History. In 2004, Columbia University awarded Professor Wilder the University Medal for Excellence during its 250th Anniversary Commencement.

“The most important decision you make as a student is not about the history of the institution but the fit between your personality and the institution. Your decision is a personal, three-dimensional one, and not some grand statement about American history. The way it’s going to make the greatest impact is if you thrive in that institution.”

WHAT IS REAL?

Alumni who must find and declare the truth as their life’s work live in rigorous times. What is the impact on their work, and on their persons, when public voices dismissively declare that the truth is fake, or that an alternate reality is true? We asked alumni who mine for the truth in different domains: How hard it is to find the truth? How difficult is it to know what’s real?

And in an environment of widespread mistrust, what happens to the reality they bring forward?

How vulnerable is the truth?

How illusive is the truth?

What, we wanted to know, is the daring part of “daring to be true”—finding it, declaring it, keeping it alive, making sure it matters?