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Kidnapped: 1956 Abduction is Focus of History lecture

(Posted March 15, 2010)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- In a lecture seemingly torn from the pages of a "Law and Order" script," historian Allen Wells will lecture at Juniata College on the 1956 abduction of a Columbia University professor off the New York City streets and the international repercussions of the crime at 7:30 p.m., Monday, March 22 in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science on the Juniata campus.

The lecture by Wells, professor of history at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, is free and open to the public. The lecture is part of the Delbert McQuaide Lectureship in history and is sponsored by the history department.

The talk, "The Abduction of a Professor: U.S. and American Jewish Support for Dictatorship in Latin America," details the kidnapping of Jesus Galindez, a Columbia University professor, in 1956 and the subsequent efforts to cover up the crime, which resulted in several other deaths.

As the investigation into the kidnapping snowballed, it came to light that the abduction of Galindez had been ordered by Rafael Trujillo, the dictatorial leader of the Dominican Republic. The continued efforts to cover up the kidnapping eventually led to the 1961 assassination of Trujillo by Dominican citizens (with planning and oversight provided by the CIA).

Wells will explain how the case illuminates how the United States justified supporting dictatorial regimes in Latin America and how an American Jewish philanthropic organization, the Joint Distribution Committee, supported Trujillo because the dictator had helped settle Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany during World War II.

Wells' historical expertise centers on modern Mexican history, particularly in the Yucatan. He recently published a book, based on the material he covers in his lecture, called "Tropical Zion: General Trujillo. FDR and the Jews of Sosua."

He earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1973 from SUNY-Binghamton. He went on to earn a master's degree in 1974 and a doctorate in 1979 from SUNY-Stony Brook.

He received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for the 2006-2007 academic year. He also served as president of the New England Council for Latin American Studies from 2005-2006.

The Delbert McQuaide Lectureship in History Series was established by Delbert McQuaide, a 1958 Juniata College graduate. He was a senior partner at McQuaide Blasko Law Offices in State College and served as general counsel for Penn State University and the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. He was president of the Centre County Bar Association, and a member of the Pennsylvania, and American Bar Associations and the National Association of College and University Attorneys. Mr. McQuaide was a member of the Board of Trustees from 1994 and served as chairman from 1996 until his death in 1997.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.