Shortly after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, laws were passed barring Jews from working in the public sector. That meant many of the most important minds were tossed out of their jobs at major universities. In response, The Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced German Scholars formed in New York. Within a few years, the Committee brought about 300 professors to the U.S. Nine were hired by The University of Chicago.
But many found work where there was great need - at some of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the southern United States. There, despite the constraints of their own exile and the Jim Crow laws, many formed unique and lasting bonds with their students.
Their story is told in the traveling exhibition Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges. It's currently up at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie.
Eight Forty-Eight's Alison Cuddy recently took a tour with curator Arielle Weininger. Weininger says students knew what brought their professors to the American South.
Music Button: Nicholas Payton, "The Backward Step", from the CD Into the Blue, (Nonesuch)