Ernst Borinski

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Ernst Borinski
Ernst Borinski1955.jpg
Ernst Borinski's autographed yearbook photo from Tougaloo College's 1955 yearbook.
Born(1901-11-26)November 26, 1901
DiedMay 26, 1983(1983-05-26) (aged 81)

Ernst Borinski (November 26, 1901 – May 26, 1983) was a German-Jewish sociologist and intellectual, who contributed to undermining Jim Crow laws in Mississippi during the 1950s and 1960s.[1][2][3]


Borinski was born in the city of Kattowitz, in then-German Empire (now Katowice, Poland). His undergraduate studies were completed at the University of Berlin.

On March 21, 1938, he arrived in New York City aboard the Queen Mary. After serving four years in the U.S. Army during World War II, Borinski received a M.A. degree in Sociology from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Sociology in Law from the University of Pittsburgh.[4]


In 1947, he accepted a teaching position at Tougaloo College, a historically black college located in Tougaloo, Mississippi. In addition to heading the sociology department, Borinski also taught Russian, German and was a recognized authority on constitutional law.[2][4][5][6]

In addition to teaching at Tougaloo, Borinski also held faculty positions at Duke University, Vanderbilt University, Hampshire College and the graduate program at Antioch University.[2]

During the 1950s and early 1960s, Borinski regularly organized meetings between black and white groups in defiance of racial segregation.[1][2][6][7][8] He spoke frequently at Millsaps College, a historically white institution in Jackson not far from Tougaloo College's campus.[7] As a consequence of his activities, Borinski was the subject of investigation by the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission.[9] In 1980 the Southern Sociological Society made Borinski the third person on its "Roll of Honor," its "greatest recognition."

During his final years, Borinski began to reduce his workload due to age, but managed to teach one course each spring semester until he died on May 26, 1983 at the age of 81. He is buried at a small cemetery on the Tougaloo campus.[2][3][6]


There is a building complex on Tougaloo's campus named after him.[6]

In January 2000, Tougaloo sponsored their first annual history conference in his honor. The Mississippi ACLU gives out an annual award in his name.[6]

Borinski is one of the subjects profiled in the documentary, From Swastika to Jim Crow, which looks at Jewish refugee scholars who taught at historically black colleges in the mid-20th Century.[6]


  1. ^ a b Lowe, Maria. "An Unseen Hand:The Role of Sociology Professor Ernst Borinski in Mississippi's Struggle for Racial Integration in the 1950s and 1960s (abstract)". Sage Publications. Retrieved 2010-12-28. Embodying characteristics of both a bridge leader and a transformative intellectual, Professor Borinski worked behind the scenes and utilized the academy's resources and his status as an `outsider' to contribute to undermining Mississippi's racial status quo.
  2. ^ a b c d e Buck, Henrietta (28 May 1983). "Civil rights activist Borinski dies". Clarion-Ledger. Jackson, Mississippi. Retrieved 30 Oct 2017. (Subscription required (help)). Recognized as an influential force in the quest for civil rights during the 1950s and early 1960s, he was instrumental in initiating academic forums in the state to increase awareness of civil injustices.
  3. ^ a b "Ernst Borinski". Find A Grave. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
  4. ^ a b "Institute Speaker Here Tomorrow Is Dr. Borinski". Morning Advocate. Baton Rouge, Louisiana. February 12, 1961.
  5. ^ 'Smith, Edgar E., ed. (1955). Eaglet '55. Tougaloo, Mississippi: Tougaloo Southern Christian College.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "From Swastika to Jim Crow". PBS. Retrieved 2010-12-28. Ernst Borinski's legendary Sociology Science Forums served to bridge the gap between the races, bringing together Tougaloo students with members of the surrounding White communities.
  7. ^ a b "Millsaps President and Wright Protest". Clarion-Ledger. Jackson, Mississippi: Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History. March 9, 1958. Archived from the original on 2013-10-02.
  8. ^ Crain, Jim (February 14, 1961). "Intellectuals Have Role in South to Safeguard Democracy, Speaker Says". Morning Advocate. Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
  9. ^ "Sovereignty Commission Online [Database Online]". Jackson, Mississippi: Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History. Archived from the original on 2011-01-15. Retrieved 2010-12-29.

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