Coral Gables Museum, FIU to present ‘Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow’

Coral Gables Museum, FIU to present ‘Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow’
Professor Ernst Borinski is shown teaching in the Social Science Lab at Tougaloo College, MS, ca. 1960.

Coral Gables Museum, dedicated to furthering the study of history and the civic arts, in collaboration with Florida International University’s Exile Studies Program, the Center for Humanities in an Urban Environment and the Department of English, presents a traveling exhibit titled “Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges,” created by the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

The exhibit opens Sunday, Oct. 5, and runs through Jan. 11, 2015. The exhibit’s formal opening will take place Oct. 5, at 1 p.m.

“This exhibit explores the deep relationships that formed between two disenfranchised groups that each experienced racism firsthand — Jews fleeing Nazi Europe and African-Americans in the South living during Jim Crow,” said Christine Rupp, executive director of the Coral Gables Museum. “The exhibit and its surrounding activities and programs will give the South Florida community an opportunity to learn about these remarkable teachers and students and how they reacted to the discrimination they faced.”

Inspired by Gabrielle Simon Edgcomb’s landmark book, From Swastika to Jim Crow: Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges and the subsequent PBS documentary by Joel Sucher and Steven Fischler, the exhibit has enjoyed a successful run at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City and a national tour that brought the exhibition to such venues as the Dusable Museum of African-American History in Chicago; Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, IL; William Bremen Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta, and the National Museum of American Jewish History in Pennsylvania.

“The advent of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s resulted in the dismissal of a large number of Jewish scholars from their posts in German universities. Ostracized and dispossessed, they sought refuge and professorships beyond the borders of their estranged homeland. Some succeeded in their search; many perished in the Holocaust,” said Asher Z. Milbauer, director of the FIU Exile Studies Program in the Department of English. “The exhibit tells a compelling story of Jewish exiled professors who found refuge and employment in historically black colleges. It celebrates the triumphs of intellectual reciprocity between these professors and their African- American students.The exhibit will serve as a genuine teaching moment by lauding the benefits of mutual understanding and by extolling the moral and ethical values of hospitality and acceptance of the other.”

“Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow” will be presented in the museum’s spacious Fewell Gallery. The museum will host group tours of the exhibit and train docents from FIU and local Jewish and African-American community members to guide visitors and explain the exhibit’s highlights and artifacts.

The exhibit tells the story of Jewish academics from Germany and Austria who were dismissed from their teaching positions in the 1930s.

After fleeing to America, some refugee scholars found positions at historically black colleges and universities in the Jim Crow South.

The exhibit further explores what it meant to the students to have these new staff as part of their community, how the students were affected by their presence, and what life was like for white, European Jews teaching at black colleges and universities. It also examines the empathy between two minority groups with a history of persecution, some of who came together in search of freedom and opportunity, and shared the early years of struggle in the Civil Rights movement.

Associated educational programs during the exhibit include panel discussions at the museum with Jewish and African-American scholars such as:

“Lessons and Legacies from Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow” featuring Professor Guy Stern of Wayne State University, Professor Alan Berger of Florida Atlantic University, playwright Jacqueline Lawton and a local historian. They will examine the evolution in American thinking about race based on the experiences highlighted in the exhibit. The event takes place on Sunday, Oct. 19, from 4 to 6 p.m.

“The Jewish Experience in South Florida” featuring Professor Paul George of Miami Dade College takes place on Thursday, Nov. 13, from 6 to 8 p.m.

For more information about educational programs or volunteering, visit

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