Oral History Center - UC Berkeley Library

Winthrop Jordon: Historian of Slavery and Race Relations in America. Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, 1963-1982

Interviewee(s):
Jordan, Winthrop
Interviewer(s):
Lage, Ann
Title:
Winthrop Jordon: Historian of Slavery and Race Relations in America. Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, 1963-1982
Abstract:
Winthrop Donaldson Jordan, a New Englander born and bred, came to Berkeley in 1963 after attending Phillips Andover Academy, Harvard University for a BA in social relations, Clark University for an MA in history, and Brown University for his PhD in history. When he arrived in Berkeley he had completed the research for and had determined the “fundamental shape” of the manuscript of his landmark history of racial attitudes, White over Black: American Attitudes toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (University of North Carolina, 1968). Jordan taught at Berkeley for nearly twenty years, departing in 1982 for a position in the Department of History at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. Jordan was interviewed for the Department of History at Berkeley oral history series during a visit to Berkeley in July 2004. We met for nearly eight hours over a three-day period, first discussing the important influences of his family background, with women’s rights, abolitionist, and Quaker heritage and his education and teaching experiences before Berkeley. He spoke of the genesis, research, conceptualization, writing, and reception of White over Black. He provided an insightful perspective on the Department of History at Berkeley when he arrived as part of the large cohort of male historians hired during the sixties, the department’s response to the social and political turmoil of the sixties and early seventies, and a diminished collegiality in the later seventies and eighties. With his interest and scholarly background in racial attitudes, Jordan was called on to take an active role in campus governance, particularly in efforts to increase diversity in the student body and during the racially charged events surrounding establishment of an ethnic studies program on campus. He discusses in the oral history his efforts as the first associate dean of the Graduate Division for Minority Group Affairs, 1968-1970, his experiences and observations during the Third World Strike in 1969, and his involvement in the early years of the Afro-American studies department. Lastly, he discusses leaving Berkeley for the University of Mississippi, life and teaching at Ole Miss, and the research and writing of another prize-winning book, Tumult and Silence at Second Creek: An Inquiry into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press) in 1993.
Subject area(s):
Education and University of California
Interview date(s):
2004
Project:
History Department, UC Berkeley
Oskicat record:
b20590038
Rights:
Jordan, Winthrop. "Winthrop Jordon: Historian of Slavery and Race Relations in America. Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, 1963-1982." Interview by Ann Lage in 2004. Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2009.