Cancel Culture

Art Curator Accuses Princeton University of 'Anti-Intellectual Surrender to Cancel Culture'

An exhibit featuring 19th-century Jewish American artwork was axed after the university objected to two artists who supported the Confederacy.

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Last December, Princeton University was slated to host an exhibition of 19th-century Jewish American artwork provided by Leonard Milberg, a Princeton alum and patron of the arts. Milberg pulled out, however, due to disagreements with the university.

In statements to The Daily Princetonian, a university spokesperson made it sound like Milberg was ultimately responsible for the exhibition not taking place. But both Milberg and the curator, art historian Samantha Baskind of Cleveland State University, tell a very different story: Princeton officials had objected to the inclusion of artwork by two 19th-century Jewish Americans who had served as soldiers in the Confederate army during the Civil War.

"Princeton forced the cancelation by canceling the two most important artists," Baskind tells Reason. "It would be impossible to have an accurate show about nineteenth-century Jewish American art without its most outstanding figure: Moses Jacob Ezekiel."

Indeed, a well-known piece by Ezekiel was intended to serve as the centerpiece. That work is "Faith," a 64-inch marble statue completed by Ezekiel in 1876. It was commissioned by a Jewish fraternal organization to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence; a replica currently stands outside Philadelphia's National Museum of American Jewish History.

Ezekiel is a complicated historical figure who fought for the Confederacy and supported the Lost Cause, the idea that the Civil War was about the southern states defending themselves from northern aggression. A second artist whose work would have been part of the exhibition, Theodore Moise, also served in the Confederate Army. But of course, history is filled with flawed people who nevertheless made important contributions to literature, art, science, and philosophy. Besides, the works in question had nothing to do with the Confederacy, and would have been displayed alongside labels that contextualized the artists and acknowledged their unsavory ties.

"History doesn't come with neat, sanitized figures," says Baskind. "Princeton canceled exactly the type of a show that a university should tackle."

Problems arose last October, during the planning stages of the exhibition. That's when the university's vice provost for institutional equity and diversity became involved, according to Religion News Service. The administrator wanted Ezekiel and Moise dropped.

Milberg, who has previously contributed more than 13,000 pieces to Princeton's collections, balked at the idea of modifying the showcase in order to satisfy administrators' sensitivities.

"Once you start canceling things, it never ends," he told The Daily Princetonian.

Baskind describes Princeton's behavior as "an unfortunate anti-intellectual surrender to cancel culture." She commends Milberg for refusing to sponsor historical revisionism.

"He took a very principled stand by choosing not to fund the exhibition after the library took curatorial matters in their own hands," she says. "He disagreed with Princeton's decision to censor the show and erase history."

Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish American History at Brandeis University whose work had informed the exhibition, also objected to Princeton's capitulation. The fact that two of the most important Jewish American artists of the 19th century were Confederate soldiers is something that merits conversation, not censorship, says Sarna.

"One approach is that we have faith in the audience; we display in full complexity the material and talk about it," Sarna told Religion News. "The other approach is that we cancel it. I'm very reluctant to be part of the woke, [part of] cancel[ing] everything that doesn't conform to present-day moral standards."

An institution of higher education might have expressed curiosity about the intersection of these subjects—the Jewish American experience, the Civil War, and 19th-century art—and invited its students to contemplate them. Princeton's impulse was exactly the opposite: to bury the truth.

Of course, the issue here isn't really the Princeton as a whole, but rather the fact that the relevant decision maker is a risk-averse diversity coordinator. As long as the office of institutional equity holds sway, liberal values like freedom of expression and diversity of thought will be threatened on campuses.

Michael Hotchkiss, a spokesperson for Princeton, denied that the university had cancelled the exhibition.*

"Neither the Library nor the University caused this exhibit to be cancelled," said Hotckiss in a statement to Reason. "It was cancelled by the donor, after the University insisted on its principles prohibiting donors from interfering with the academic freedom of librarians to determine how material in exhibitions will be contextualized and displayed."

That's not how Baskind sees it.

"Princeton's effort to avoid any potential controversy was at the expense of a tremendous opportunity to show intriguing and exceptional art to their students, and to open up crucial conversations," says Baskind. "A vital learning moment was lost."

Update: Princeton has provided a statement about the exhibition.

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  1. "An exhibit featuring 19th-century Jewish American artwork was axed after the university objected to two artists who supported the Confederacy."

    Excellent. 🙂

    #LibertariansForCancelCulture

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  2. Fuck Princeton.

    Unironically, the Princeton Club in NYC went out of business.

  3. I'm always wary of "contextualizing" art or artists by bringing up beliefs they held that aren't relevant to the subject or art themselves. It suspiciously never seems to happen when reading about Helen Keller (a supporter of eugenics). It often appears to just be an excuse to demonize individuals from unfavored groups, while leaving implications that favored people from favored groups held no beliefs that modern audiences would disagree with.

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  5. "That's when the university's vice provost for institutional equity and diversity became involved"

    And to think that 10 years ago, words like these could have appeared only in the Onion or Bee.

    1. Huxley, Orwell and others prophesied this. Movies have been made illustrating it... why are you surprised it is here?

    2. They call themselves "progressive" for a reason; a lot like malignancy. And of course "Once you start canceling things, it never ends,"

    3. Can't we just them Kommisar and be done with it?
      So much simpler

  6. Princeton's effort to avoid any potential controversy was...

    ...unsuccessful?

    1. Gaslighting?

  7. "Once you start canceling things, it never ends."

    "BWAHAHAHAHAAA!!"

  8. Robby, you need to stop giving cover to the marxist DIE gatekeepers. They are not risk-averse on these issues because they are the ones intentionally creating the risk of violent mobs of misinformed thugs. Stop posing as a classical liberal, either live up to the defense of those principles or just be honest about the neo-Marxist ideology you continuously give cover and support to.

    1. Keep talking like that and Robby will end up in his safe space (again).

    2. The “idea” that Southern states were defending themselves from Northern aggression.

      Reality is Wrongthink

  9. A quick glance shows that Ezekiel was a 16 year-old student at VMI when the war broke out. Moise was older and painting in New Orleans, but apparently never fought in any battles, instead serving by building rafts. Neither apparently ever owned slaves.

    Since such a small proportion of Southerners owned slaves, why did so many young Southern men with no skin in the slavery argument like these guys end up fighting? Generally it was one of three reasons:

    1. They were conscripted
    2. They were paid by a rich guy to fight in his place
    3. They were defending their homes from invaders.

    My guess is that Ezekiel fit into group 1 as a cadet at VMI and that as an older man (in his 50s) Theis was in group 3.

    It's really an embarrassment to Princeton that they have such a cartoonish view of American History with so little understanding of nuance. You'd think as a supposedly top tier university they'd do better.

    1. "...they have such a cartoonish view of American History with so little understanding of nuance."

      Hey that's just being "woke."

      1. Nuance is racist!

    2. not to mention in those days you either joined or were canceled. back then they would have called it ostracized, same thing only the name changed

    3. Next up, Princeton starts rejecting all applicants from south of the Mason-Dixon Line. I mean, Princeton needs to get back to its roots as a Rich White Yankees Only institution. And not only were these artists not Yankee, they were only honorary whites, and rank too low in the identity hierarchy to merit consideration.

      In their next step they will be chiseling Einstein's name from its marble walls.

      1. Does Princeton erase Woodrow Wilson's time as University President from its official history?

    4. "It's really an embarrassment to Princeton that they have such a cartoonish view of American History with so little understanding of nuance. You'd think as a supposedly top tier university they'd do better."
      Doesn't matter. It's the crowd that doesn't give a crap and will gang up on them or anyone else who doesn't toe the Party line.

  10. How's about we cancel everything which ever had anything to do with slavery?

    Start with the Democratic Party.

    1. +

  11. Whole article in one fragment = “ vice provost for institutional equity and diversity became involved”, the end.

  12. I made a fairly predictable discovery.

    Princeton has hosted the work of Pablo Picasso. According to Wikipedia:

    "In 1944, Picasso joined the French Communist Party. He attended the 1948 World Congress of Intellectuals in Defense of Peace in Poland, and in 1950 received the Stalin Peace Prize from the Soviet government. Party criticism in 1953 of his portrait of Stalin as insufficiently realistic cooled Picasso's interest in Soviet politics, though he remained a loyal member of the Communist Party until his death."

    1. Communism is cool.

      And let me get my Che Guevara tee shirt out of the laundry before it shrinks like a 5 year plan.

  13. And they put on a play by Bertolt Brecht

    https://arts.princeton.edu/events/mother-courage/2019-11-15/

    who according to Wikipedia wasn't a communist but who *did* run a theater in East Germany ("I'm not gay, but my boyfriend is!")

    Oh, and they did stuff with George Bernard Shaw - a play, portraits in the art museum.

    George Bernard Shaw was the equivalent of a Holocaust denier - he denied the terror-famine in Ukraine while it was going on. With the current fascination with all things Ukraine, maybe this will come up?

    1. Three Penny Opera is still the best play every written.

  14. Confront them with their own "standards" - which turn out not to be the standards they're pretending they are. Murder, slavery, oppression - all OK for their artists so long as its commie murder, slavery and oppression.

    So what's their *real* standard with these bans?

    1. > So what's their *real* standard with these bans?

      Can't have Jews in the ivory tower is my guess. Anti-semitism remains the acceptable Woketarian prejudice.

    2. I believe you will find that on an intersectionality scale.

      Some groups are less equal than others, and oppression = points:

      https://intersectionalityscore.com/

      Anything related to African Americans is very high, because of course that represents a significant voting block who can often be manipulated with the right propaganda [as when our current POOTUS said "they want to put you all back in chains [2014]."

      Jews, Asians, meh. They are the "propertied" class and are only claimed when it suits the overall agenda.

      1. Maybe they can find a Jewish artist who was a Communist instead of a neo-Confederate. They wouldn't object to having him, would they? (or her, I don't keep a list of Jewish communist artists)

        Then the informational literature in the museum could say something like "right-wingers pounced on his (her) political associations, " etc.

  15. Congratulations, Jews. You are now part of the oppressive white patriarchy. Just leave a few seats in that back row for Asians.

    1. There's actually a bit of overlap in the Jewish/Asian venn diagram.

  16. An exhibit featuring 19th-century Jewish American artwork was axed after the university objected to two artists who supported the Confederacy.

    But would have no problem with an exhibit on Hemingway, who spent the late 40s in the payroll of the NKVD.

    1. Hemingway; don't forget a lifetime of misogyny. That will deduct points from his dalliances with communism that he picked up in Spain.

    2. Oh, they hate Hemmingway in colleges these days. Because he's the epitome of the dead white man, though, nothing to do with his politics.

  17. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus; therefore every union soldier was (is?) a constitution hating fascist.

    1. Progs admire that about him.

      A fuck off Rev, you muted cuck. Nobody sees what's in your little gray boxes any more.

      1. If a Hicklib Reverend details his rape fantasies in public, but he just appears as a muted grey box to everyone on the planet, did he really post at all?

        1. If I put a cat in a box, is it alive or dead?

    2. Hmm, the US Constitution is literal fascism. This is a tough one.

      Ruling: False.

      anyone who hates the constitution is on The Right Side of History.

  18. Would those promoting this exhibit -- Milberg, Baskind, Soave, Religion News Service, Sarna -- be equally supportive of this program?

    GOEBBELS AND GOEHRING: A Different Perspective
    A dominant narrative has obscured the point that Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Goring were avid and accomplished doodlers. Princeton University is pleased to present a newly assembled collection of hundreds of original works from these prominent (and complicated) artists, including one previously unknown and quite involved doodle drawn surreptitiously by Mr. Goebbels -- at great personal risk -- during an in-person meeting with Adolf Hitler.

    Or, instead, would their ostensible principles and outrage become victims of selective wokeness?

    1. Who's Goehring?

      1. Goring.

        I worked with a Goehring for a few years; appear to have typed that by habit.

        1. Most of what you type appears to be by habit, as if you haven't had an original idea or opinion in a very long time.

  19. You know who else was an artist?

    1. Sorry, the Rev pre-Godwinned the thread for you.

  20. Obviously, the government needs to get involved and force the library to exhibit things it doesn't want to.

    --the inevitable Republican response

    1. You should go read some Haidt. You are beyond caricature at this point

      1. Or some fucking Areopagitica. Milton called this shit 480 years ago.

  21. "Indeed, a well-known piece by Ezekiel was intended to serve as the centerpiece. That work is "Faith," a 64-inch marble statue completed by Ezekiel in 1876. It was commissioned by a Jewish fraternal organization to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence"
    I'm sure the DoC is no more acceptable than the Confederacy these days anyways.

    1. DoI !!!

  22. But did either one have any Russian ancestry?

  23. This hang up with slavery from 150 years ago is simply stupid. Are we going to judge all historical figures by today’s ever changing and fluid standards? President Bill Clinton came out as against gay marriage. Senator Joe Biden voted for a law put forth by Ted Kennedy in 1994 forbidding the discussion of sex - gay or straight - in public schools. We should cancel them too. Why stop at the 1860s? The Roman and Greek economies were built on slavery - let’s destroy all Greco-Roman art, literature and philosophy. Hell, we should rename July and August while we’re at it since they were named after Julius and Augustus Caesar - both slave owners. Liberals are simply nuts and have no concept of history.

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