Tue Apr 24, 2018 6:00pm

Mysterious World of Yale’s Secret Societies Revealed

Sponsored by: New Haven Museum

Author and Yale alumnus David Alan Richards will reveal the truth behind the mysterious world of Yale University’s secret societies based on his definitive and scholarly history, “Of Skulls and Keys: The History of Yale’s Secret Societies,” during a free presentation at the New Haven Museum.

According to Richards, secret societies have fundamentally shaped America’s cultural and political landscapes. In ways that are expected but never explicit, the bonds made through the most elite of secret societies have won members Pulitzer Prizes, governorships, and even presidencies. At the apex of these institutions stands Yale University and its rumored 47 secret societies. Examining a history that has intrigued and enthralled for centuries, Richards will trace the history of Yale’s societies as they set the foundation for America’s future secret clubs and helped define the modern age of politics.

But, Richards notes, there is a progressive side to Yale’s secret societies that is rarely heard of, one that, in the cultural tumult of the 1960s, resulted in the election of people of color, women, and gay men, even in proportions beyond their percentages in the class. “It’s a side that is often overlooked in favor of sensational legends of blood oaths and toe-curling conspiracies,” Richards adds. 

A member of Skull and Bones, and a Yale alumnus, Richards will shed light on the lesser-known stories of Yale’s secret societies, from Phi Beta Kappa in the American Revolution—originally a social and drinking society—through Skull and Bones and its rivals in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Admission: Free
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