Writing Westward Podcast 021 - Robert Lee - Land-grab Universities

Writing Westward Podcast       Episode 021

Robert Lee

Land-grab Universities

Published by High Country News, March 30, 2020




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Dr. Robert Lee is a University Lecturer in American History at the University of Cambridge. He earned is Ph.D. in History from US Berkeley and has a long list of awards and honors to his name. At the end of March 2020, he and journalist Tristan Ahtone published an article with High Country News entitled "Land-grab Universities" and released a companion digital history website landgrabu.org that provide data vizualizations to accompany the article.


This multi-year project examined the Indigenous lands that were used to fund the establishment of Land-Grant Universities around the nation. In the American West, many universities continue to generate revenue for these lands. This work pairs with the growing movement in higher education to study how institutions benefited from slavery in their early years, but it perhaps more universal in scope and relevance. It reveals how the sale of Native lands - especially in the West - were central to the founding of state universities. It reminds us that the lands used to endow public universities were not simply a "donation" from the federal government to the states. They represented millions of acres of recently, and often violently, expropriated Indigenous lands. The project was funded in part by the Pulizter Center and Fund for Invetigative Journalism.


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