While at Columbia, Los Angeles-native Jordan Brewington CC’17 had the opportunity to uncover new research on the University itself, looking at the University’s historical involvement in the slave trade.
Brewington, who double-majored in political science and ethnicity and race studies, researched runaway slave advertisements and found that 44 ads looking for runaways were submitted to local newspapers in the 1700s and early 1800s by Columbia alumni and other members of the community. On January 30, she presented the findings in Low Memorial Library with Eric Foner CC’63, GSAS’69, the Dewitt Clinton Professor of History; Jared Odessky CC’15; and President Lee C. Bollinger.
Brewington has also explored social identities through her time working with Under1Roof, fostering discussions about race, gender and socioeconomic status with incoming first years during the New Student Orientation Program. After being involved for two years, she served as Under1Roof’s student coordinator her senior year; she also served as president of Alpha Delta Phi Society, the oldest co-ed Greek organization on campus, in Fall 2016.
Brewington’s research project, which served as her senior thesis, evolved from the course “Columbia and Slavery” in Spring 2016 with Thai Jones, the Lehman Curator for American History and lecturer in history, which Brewington took “by accident.” After unveiling her groundbreaking discoveries, Brewington was asked to speak at Brown University and on news outlets like NPR.
“The class itself [led] me to discover my passion for this sort of research,” said Brewington, who after graduation will be working at the Whitney Plantation, a museum in Wallace, La., dedicated to the story of slavery. There, she will study how black men and women became disenfranchised through sharecropping.
In Her Own Words
“Because of my research [on the University's historical involvement in the slave trade] and what Columbia has been, I’m aware that the space Columbia was founded in was never intended for me as a black woman to even attend the school. But because of the Core and research, I was able to see other perspectives that were deeply challenging.... I learned a lot more about myself because I was forced to be with people who are very different from me. It’s been a powerful, deeply moving experience being here.” —Jordan Brewington CC’17
Corinne Lestch SOA’18 is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has worked for the New York Daily News, where she received a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of New York, and is currently getting her M.F.A. in creative writing at Columbia's School of the Arts. She received a B.S. in journalism from Northwestern University in 2010.