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History Lesson: A Race Odyssey
Professor Mary Lefkowitz | ISBN: 030012659X | PDF | 209 pages | 2008 | 2 MB

Scarred veteran of campus conflict, Lefkowitz here recounts her arduous struggle during the 1990s to defend academic standards against politically potent mythologizers. The memoir focuses on Lefkowitz’s challenge to two historical myths—one, that the ancient Greeks stole their philosophy from Egypt, and, two, that Jews masterminded the transatlantic slave trade—promulgated by Wellesley’s African Studies program. Much to the author’s dismay, her initial attack on the pedagogical malpractice implicit in these myths did not win her many academic allies. Instead, Lefkowitz found herself abandoned by postmodern colleagues skeptical of all truth claims and by administrators supine in their interpretation of academic freedom. Tensions between Jewish and African American scholars—exacerbated by the very myths under debate—exposed the author to charges of racism and to virulent anti-Semitism. Though unjustly compelled to defend herself in court, Lefkowitz finally triumphed, not only vindicating her personal intellectual standards but also awakening within the academic community a renewed commitment to professional integrity. A clear-eyed look at the perils—and promise—of contemporary academic life.


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