NYC Black history professor accuses college of seizing $12M worth of research material

Joseph Wilson CUNY thegrio
Professor Joseph Wilson sues his former employer, the City University of New York, for taking his Black History research away. (Photo courtesy of

A professor in New York City is suing the City University of New York (CUNY) for making away with millions worth of his research papers, notes and letters related to Black history, the New York Daily News reports.

Joseph Wilson has spent the last 40 years becoming a leading expert on Black working class history and on the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters – the first Black labor union – says the papers that were ripped from his office in 2012 include vital research into a death threat against Black labor legend, A. Philip Randolph, notes on an undiscovered speech by Martin Luther King Jr., correspondence with music legend Ray Charles and Wilson’s own written exchange with poet Allen Ginsberg.

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This all stems from an employment dispute with the City University of New York when Wilson was a tenured professor at Brooklyn College and the director of the Graduate Center for Worker Education and founder of the Brooklyn College Center for Diversity and MultiCultural Studies. Brooklyn College falls under the umbrella of the City University of New York.

Wilson was banned from teaching in 2012 after an inquiry into whether he made too much money through all his various roles with CUNY. While the State Attorney General investigated and found no evidence of a crime, CUNY imposed its own administrative charges against the professor. An arbitrator ultimately ruled that Wilson’s salary exceeded a professor cap of $116,000 and he was laid off in 2016.

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The New Times reports that Wilson was making at least $200,000 in salary that he was not entitled to, misappropriated grant money and secretly renting out the Graduate Center while locking students out and pocketing the fee.

As a result, security guards seized the boxes of papers with no warning, according to the Daily News. Wilson claims he later found some of his hard earned work stuffed into plastic bags and strewn around shelves.

Wilson’s research is allegedly valued between $12 and $14 million, according to the News.

“All I want is justice,” said Wilson. “What gives people the right, for whatever alleged violations they used to fire me, to trash my history and my intellectual property.”

Wilson continued, “The University has to be held accountable and apologize profusely and profoundly. They made some dastardly errors.”

CUNY says its arbitrator found Wilson guilty of “serious misconduct” in taking compensation for which he was not entitled.

“We look forward to a full airing of all the facts in this case, which clearly show that Mr. Wilson’s claims are without merit,” a CUNY spokesman told the Daily News.