Huntington Cancels Mostly White Conference

September 15, 2020

The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens canceled an upcoming virtual conference called "Landscapes of Exploitation in the Atlantic World" following criticism that nearly all speakers were white and that the framing of the conference itself was problematic, conflating exploitation with slavery and colonization. "The Huntington takes this very seriously," the library announced on Twitter. "We are therefore cancelling the conference in order to acknowledge the racial exclusiveness built into the structure of the program." Other scholars shared additional concerns that a separate, upcoming conference on the early modern global Caribbean is predominantly white. The Huntington also tweeted, "We have been examining every part of our research program and making changes but clearly not rapidly enough. The Huntington apologizes and reaffirms its commitment to address systemic problems of white privilege and will further accelerate that process."

The “Landscapes” workshop was to bring together historians and archaeologists working in Britain and the U.S. “to offer new insights into the relationship between landscape and labor on the British Atlantic landed estate.” Participants were to “consider these industrializing, imperial places within the broader economic, political and cultural milieu in which they emerged, investigating especially the politics of power relations, conceptions of labor, property and liberty, and strategies of resistance.” In June, after the murder of George Floyd, Karen Lawrence, president of the Huntington, reminded patrons and employees that the library’s current diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan seeks to incorporate those "core values in every aspect of our institution -- building our collections, creating exhibitions, hiring practices, naming board members, forging partnerships, and more -- and commits us to becoming a more inclusive, diverse and better institution."

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