Exhibit Explores Bonds Between Jewish Refugee Professors, Black Students

Nov 5, 2014

Professor Ernst Borinski teaching in the Social Science Lab, Tougaloo College, MS, circa 1960.
Credit Coral Gables Museum

Imagine you’re a college professor driven from your home country on a wave of prejudice and bigotry. You seek refuge in a new country, where you find yourself teaching a group of people subjected to similar intolerance. This nearly forgotten part of 20th-Century history is being revisited now at a Coral Gables Museum exhibit.

“Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow” tells the story of Jewish professors who fled Nazi Germany and found job security in an unexpected place – black colleges in the segregated American South.

"When these professors were expelled from Germany and Austria by Hitler, they came to the United States seeking employment and a new life," says Coral Gables Museum Executive Director Christine Rupp. "And because there was also an environment of anti-Semitism here in the States, it was black colleges that welcomed some of these professors."

Rupp says the exhibit showcases the bonds forged between those educators and their black students. One of her favorite artifacts is a newspaper clipping dated 1942 chronicling how a pair of married Jewish professors were fined in Birmingham, Ala., and charged with "incitement to riot" for dining with one of their African-American students at an all-black restaurant.

People listen to Caroline Parker, director of programs at the Coral Gables Museum, as she gives a guided tour of the 'Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges' exhibit.
Credit Coral Gables Museum

The exhibit is based on a book titled "From Swastika To Jim Crow," which explores the similarities between Nazism in Germany and racism in the American South. It later became the subject of a 2000 PBS documentary and then a traveling exhibit created by the The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.

"Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow" arrived in Miami through a collaboration between the Coral Gables Museum and Florida International University, which has organized a series of events highlighting key aspects of the exhibit.

"Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars At Black Colleges" will be on display through January 11, 2015, at the Coral Gables Museum, 285 Aragon Avenue. 305-603-8067.