Students at the historically black Howard University are demanding the resignation of a white professor who held a mock slave auction during a lecture on Frederick Douglass on March 9.
The story was first reported by Caged Bird Magazine, an “online writing platform for minorities, by minorities” and alleged the professor singled out one of two black male students in the class. The professor reportedly told the student to stand up, noting that the student looked “healthy … like the type of slave buyers would look for.”
Multiple students in the class responded by telling the professor to stop, but he didn’t. Student Lena Willis told WUSA9, “I thought it was pretty crazy and wild, especially after seeing the reaction of the students, how he kept going and proceeding with the auction.”
“Professor A asked me to stand up and I reluctantly did so. He started propping my body up as if we were on a slave auction block,” the student said. The professor reportedly asked the other students to examine their classmate’s teeth, height, and weight. He later instructed the student to “turn around so we can see your buttocks,” according to Caged Bird Magazine.
“I wanted to hit him,” the student said. “I was being racially and sexually harassed in front of my peers and the only thing I could think to defend myself was by punching him.”
The professor apparently told the class the student was worth $400 and proceeded to explain that he, too, was uncomfortable as a white man using a black student for his display. “It’s OK, I’m uncomfortable too. I’m white,” the professor reportedly told the class.
Other students in the class were uncomfortable and angry with the professor, telling him to stop.
“If you’re telling someone to turn around and show their behind, I don’t think your intention was to teach,” Howard University student Paris Copeland told WUSA9.
Student Corey Jefferson told Fox 5, “Personally I’m upset. You can’t really have a mock slavery auction at HBCU, especially being a professor of a different race.” Jefferson added, “I feel a little bit disrespected by that, just because, I feel as though we’re past that.”
Howard University released a statement to WJLA, noting, “The University is aware of the incident and is investigating the matter.”