Christopher L. Brown, an African American professor of history at Columbia University in New York City, left campus in March when the university transitioned to online learning for the remainder of the semester. He went to a family home in Vermont.
On Friday May 8, Professor Brown, who drives a car with New York State license plates, was in his car in Hartford, Vermont, with his 11-year-old son. According to a report from the Vermont State Police, he was flagged down by occupants of two vehicles. Professor Brown, thinking someone needed assistance, stopped and spoke with a White occupant of one of the vehicles. Dr. Brown was advised that he was not wanted in Vermont and told to leave. Professor Brown reported the bias incident to law enforcement.
A statement released by the state police said that “Vermont is and must continue to be a state where visitors feel welcome, regardless of who they are, what they look like or where they come from, even during this pandemic. Seasonal residents, the owners of second homes and guests from beyond our borders remain able to travel to Vermont and live here under current health and safety requirements. As restrictions related to COVID-19 begin to ease, Vermonters should be prepared to see more out-of-state visitors, and they deserve the same expectation of safety and security that Vermont residents have. Hate speech and threats are disturbing, unacceptable and have no place in Vermont.”
Matthew T. Birmingham, director of the Vermont State Police, added: “People in Vermont should not have to worry about crimes motivated by hate at any time, let alone when our communities should be pulling together to face an unprecedented situation that affects all of us.”
Professor Brown, who has taught at Columbia since 2007, is the author of Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism (University of North Carolina Press, 2006) and the co-editor of Arming Slaves: From Classical Times to the Modern Age (Yale Univerity Press, 2006). He is a graduate of Yale University and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oxford.