Upending the Ivory Tower

Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Ivy League

480 pages

15 illustrations

September, 2018

ISBN: 9781479873999



Add to Cart Available: 8/24/2018

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Stefan M. Bradley is Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of African American Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.  He is author of Harlem vs. Columbia University:  Black Student Power in the Late 1960s and co-editor of Alpha Phi Alpha:  A Legacy of GreatnessThe Demands of Transcendence

All books by Stefan M. Bradley

Winner, 2019 Anna Julia Cooper and C.L.R. James Award, given by the National Council for Black Studies
The inspiring story of the black students, faculty, and administrators who forever changed America’s leading educational institutions and paved the way for social justice and racial progress 
The eight elite institutions that comprise the Ivy League, sometimes known as the Ancient Eight—Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Penn, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth, and Cornell—are American stalwarts that have profoundly influenced history and culture by producing the nation’s and the world’s leaders. The few black students who attended Ivy League schools in the decades following WWII not only went on to greatly influence black America and the nation in general, but unquestionably awakened these most traditional and selective of American spaces. In the twentieth century, black youth were in the vanguard of the black freedom movement and educational reform.   
Upending the Ivory Tower illuminates how the Black Power movement, which was borne out of an effort to edify the most disfranchised of the black masses, also took root in the hallowed halls of America’s most esteemed institutions of higher education. Between the close of WWII and 1975, the civil rights and Black Power movements transformed the demographics and operation of the Ivy League on and off campus. As desegregators and racial pioneers, black students, staff, and faculty used their status in the black intelligentsia to enhance their predominantly white institutions while advancing black freedom. Although they were often marginalized because of their race and class, the newcomers altered educational policies and inserted blackness into the curricula and culture of the unabashedly exclusive and starkly white schools.    
This book attempts to complete the narrative of higher education history, while adding a much needed nuance to the history of the Black Power movement. It tells the stories of those students, professors, staff, and administrators who pushed for change at the risk of losing what privilege they had. Putting their status, and sometimes even their lives, in jeopardy, black activists negotiated, protested, and demonstrated to create opportunities for the generations that followed. The enrichments these change agents made endure in the diversity initiatives and activism surrounding issues of race that exist in the modern Ivy League.  
Upending the Ivory Tower not only informs the civil rights and Black Power movements of the postwar era but also provides critical context for the Black Lives Matter movement that is growing in the streets and on campuses throughout the country today. As higher education continues to be a catalyst for change, there is no one better to inform today’s activists than those who transformed our country’s past and paved the way for its future. 


  • "Upending the Ivory Tower is an engaging, revealing, fluid read. It takes its place alongside some of the finest recent scholarship on the Black Power and civil rights movements, including Kendi’s The Black Campus Movement, Martha Biondi’s The Black Revolution on Campus, Peniel Joseph’s Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America, and Jeanne Theoharis’ boldly revisionist A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History."

    New York Journal of Books

  • "Upending the Ivory Tower is a definitive account of the experiences of black students at the Ivy League universities from 1945 to 1975. It is a brilliant book, complete with stunning photographs...essential reading"


  • "Stefan Bradley is one of the foremost scholars of the black student movement. In Upending the Ivory Tower , he as turned his attention black student activism in the Ivy League. This is a brilliant book about how the Black Power Movement reached the elites halls of higher education.  In a moment when 21st century black student activists in the Ivy League and across the country are demanding more faculty of color, wanting more accountability for anti-black pedagogy and policy, and declaring that black lives matter, Upending the Ivory Tower is an important and necessary history of black student activism in higher education."

    —Derrick W. White, Dartmouth College

  • "Fascinating and ambitious, Upending the Ivory Tower breathes of meticulous research and analysis from beginning to end. With this definitive chronicling of black students organizing, demanding, and sometimes protesting to blacken the exclusively white Ivy League, Stefan Bradley shows us once again why he is the historian of the Ivy black activist. There may be nothing more powerful than the student activist, and Upending the Ivory Tower again shows us why."

    —Ibram X. Kendi, award-winning author of The Black Campus Movement and Stamped from the Beginning

  • "Upending the Ivory Tower is a critical but scrupulous exposition of some of the major changes that overtook the American academy—and American culture in general—toward the end of the storied 1960s.  Although Stefan Bradley views these changes mainly through the lens of the privileged Ivy League, he never loses sight of either the steep price of such historic privilege or the more democratic and equally dynamic mainstream of American university life.  His book is an invaluable record of institutional change in a few schools that manages nevertheless to capture the spirit of a transformational moment when some of our most venerable ideas about education, race, and power changed forever."

    —Arnold Rampersad, Sara Hart Kimball Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, Stanford