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First it was the word “master”: Cornell student activists deem the word “plantation” racist

February 22, 2016

My latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

The Cornell Plantations–sort of like the cotton plantations slaves worked on

First, it was the word “master”–used at universities since the Middle Ages as a title for someone deemed learned enough to teach and mentor younger scholars. It was abolished a few months ago at Princeton and Harvard because, you know, slaves in the Old South had masters.

Now, it’s the word “plantation.” It seems that the botanical gardens at Cornell University are known as the Cornell Plantations, the title they’ve borne since they were opened in 1944. But you know, slaves in the Old South worked on plantations, so “plantation” has got to go. Never mind that Cornell wasn’t even founded until 1865, after the Civil War and two years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation–or that the state of New York where Cornell is located was never a slave state. But an activist group, Cornell Black Students United, has been demanding since November 2015 for the name Cornell Plantations to be changed–and Cornell is seriously considering acceding to the demand.

Inside Higher Education reports:

“’There is one key element that all botanic gardens have in common: celebrating, displaying and studying the rich diversity of the world’s plants,, Christopher Dunn, director of Cornell Plantations, wrote in The Cornell Daily Sun. ‘Yet to be truly effective, this celebration of natural diversity must also embrace human diversity.’

“Soon, he said, the Plantations will be rebranding.

“Cornell has not announced whether it has decided to change the name, and neither Dunn nor the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences responded to requests for comment in time for this article’s deadline. But either way, the university hopes to address concerns about the name and its implications.

“’Our staff and Advisory Council have been considering all aspects of our identity, our name, our mission and how our identity can best reflect what Cornell Plantations is — and does,’ Dunn wrote.”

Read the whole thing here.


Posted by Charlotte Allen

One Comment
  1. Lastangto permalink

    This pond+natural setting reeks of the appropriation of nature. It’s a form of colonialism and imperialism waged against places that are truly natural, and it should be torn up.

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