‘A Campus Divided’: Resources for Critical Thinking

By Karen Carmody-McIntosh

Campus is abuzz over the exhibit, A Campus Divided: Progressives, Anti-Communists, Racism, and Anti-Semitism at the University of Minnesota, 1930-1942, which has launched some important conversations about our history and our future.

The exhibit, at Elmer L. Andersen Library, uses archival materials — documents and photographs — to highlight the 1930s and early 1940s, a time when political battles raged at the University of Minnesota. The campus was divided over issues including racial and economic equality, opposition to war, and student rights. Racism and antisemitism were part of campus life. University administrators, with a few important exceptions, were architects of the racially segregated, publicly financed housing on campus.

Experience the exhibit

The exhibit is open through November 30 on the second and third floors of Elmer L. Andersen Library. All are welcome to visit during regular library hours.

A video of the opening program is now online, and includes remarks by Provost Karen Hansen, Professor Emerita Riv-Ellen Prell (co-curator), Ph.D. candidate Sarah Atwood-Hoffman (co-curator), and by Professor John S. Wright.

An online version of the exhibit is available at acampusdivided.umn.edu.

Campus responses

A Campus Divided serves as the inspiration and starting point for a new history course that will offered this spring. The course will use the exhibit as a “jumping off point to explore and contextualize conflicts over historical memory in the United States,” while also looking at current issues, such as the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville that took place in August.

President Eric Kaler has issued an official statement about the creation of the President’s and Provost’s Advisory Committee on University History “to continue our examination of the University’s past and guide our responses going forward.” The committee — chaired by  John Coleman, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts — includes the University Historian, University Archivist, faculty, students, and other representatives from all U of M campuses, and representatives from University Services, the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, and University of Minnesota Foundation.

News coverage

Local and campus news outlets have shared information about this exhibit and related conversations, such as the issue of renaming campus buildings. We have compiled some links to help our community stay informed about the issues:

Other resources

The Heartland History podcast featured an interview with U of M alumnus Mark Soderstrom, Ph.D., History, who discussed this exhibit and his dissertation work on race, segregation, and housing at the University of Minnesota in the early 20th century.

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