The Black Power movement of the late 1960s helped to redefine African American identity and establish a new racial consciousness. As influential as this period was in the study and enhancement of the African Diaspora, this movement spawned the academic discipline known as Black Studies on our college and university campuses.
While there are more than 100 Black Studies degree programs nationwide, it can be confirmed that the beginning of this curriculum evolved from a student strike at San Francisco State University in 1968. Young people there forced the establishment of the Division of Ethnic Studies and departments of Black, Asian, Chicano and Native studies, all accomplished despite the discouragement of then university president and future United States Sen. S.I. Hayakawya.
The Black Student Union
The Black Student Union on campus drafted a political statement, “The Justification for African American Studies,” that would become the main document for the development of the academic departments at more than 60 universities by the early 1970s. Shortly thereafter, Black Studies programs were implemented with inherent reservations from the various campus administrations at UCLA, Cal State Los Angeles, Cal State Long Beach and at Cal State Northridge.
Black students demanded an end to the so-called “liberal-fascist” ideology that was rampant on campus, as well as calling for the immediate preparation of African American youth including secondary school students to have direct participation in the struggles of the Black community and to define themselves as responsible to and for the future successes of that community. Black Studies departments were created in a confrontational environment in a forceful rejection of traditional curricula content.
It was a novel idea that was met with early opposition from the entrenched White faculty and administration already reeling from the Free Speech movement, opposition to the Vietnam War and a general uprising from young adults of all races, religions and creeds. Black students, specifically, wanted to reinforce the position that African Americans must possess the rights to self-determination, liberation and voice opposition to the dominant ideology of “White capitalism” (e.g. world imperialism, White supremacy) that for centuries had excluded persons of color.
The Atlanta University Conferences
Black Studies can be traced back as far back as the Atlanta University Conferences held from 1898 to 1914. This early formulation was under the auspices of W.E.B. DuBois in marking the inauguration of the first scientific study of the conditions of Black people that covered important aspects of life (e.g., health homes, the question of organization, economic development, higher education, voting).
By 1915, Carter G. Woodson had founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) in marking a brave new era for Black curriculum. The group was founded to promote historical research, publish books on Black life and history, promote the study of Black history through clubs and schools and, in a noble effort, to foster harmony between the races by interpreting one history to the other. It was during this period that the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBUs) began to respond to scholarly activities in history and social science.
It had become abundantly clear more than 100 years ago that Black education should conform to the social conditions of Black people. Black colleges began to add courses in Black history to their curricula. This effort corresponded with a call by Black college students for a culturally relevant curriculum, the same theme that occurred some 50 years later when mainstream support for Black Studies grew, particularly when more African American students were admitted into predominantly White institutions.
For the past 50 years, Black Studies has been evolving as a result of the social movement that opposed institutional racism in higher education. As more Black families were moving into the middle class, young people in many sectors either saw education as oppressive or liberating. Many African Americans began to consider Black Studies and Black education as having a “special assignment” to challenge and call out White mainstream knowledge for its deficiencies and racial corruption.
Pan Africa movement
Black Studies in large part grew out of Pan Africanism, which had its origins as a movement of intellectual protest against ill-treatment of Blacks all over the world. This movement was initiated by Black persons in the America and in the West Indies whose ancestors came from Africa. There are similarities between Black Studies and Pan Africanism in that the latter movement was created because Black people all over the world were tired of being mired with the “slave mentality” that had been connected with them from their African ancestors.
The advent of Pan Africanism was the result of Black people deciding that they were better than how they were treated, and if they banded together in a practical standpoint, they could possibly change the world. Far more than an “en vogue” application of the Civil Rights Movement, Pan Africanism and the resulting Black Studies was an emotional, cultural, psychological and ideological movement that would allow African Americans to feel secure while striving for long-sought political, economic and psychological power vis a vis other races or world regions.
At its origin, Black Studies offered a clear and precise application of the African American experience, because many of the traditional history books for decades presented Black people as a hapless, helpless lot always mired in despair. It was only then that African Americans would study in detail persons like Anthony Johnson one of the original 20 Africans who arrived in Jamestown in 1619 and would later become a successful entrepreneur, or Denmark Vessey, who fought to liberate his people from slavery by organizing 9,000 slaves and freemen to revolt in Charleston, S.C. In 1822. there was also Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler who in 1864 became the first Black woman to earn a medical degree. This area of study helped to forge a pathway for each succeeding generation to learn that African Americans have always been innovators, fighters and intelligent persons well capable of succeeding in any endeavor.
Development of Black scholars
Black Studies is not exclusively reserved for Black scholars. There are a number of scholars from a variety of backgrounds who have done important work looking at the Black Diaspora. From the African American point of view, however, a primary reason for the implementation of Black Studies was to develop a critical mass of Black scholars. The significant presence today of African American academicians is due in large part to the existence of a longstanding tradition within Black Studies that offers a route into academia for an untold number of Black scholars.
The subject of Black Studies is interdisciplinary in nature. The subject draws in academics from a range of disciplines, including history, literature, education studies, sociology, theology, health studies, and some subjects as unexpected as sexuality and criminology. A strong tenant within Black Studies is the exposure to a range of ideas and discussions that can forge meaningful connections that can be built on the future. Had it not been for the Black Studies agenda, there are historic figures and contemporary individuals who may have never been encountered and whose work was and is relevant to contemporary dynamics within the Black community.
Women’s studies, as well, are an important aspect of Black Studies. In “Out Of The Revolution: The Development of Africana Studies” (2000), authors Delores P. Aldridge and Carlene Young attest that while the emergence of Black feminism was an offshoot of White feminism, the two groups are far apart in terms of battling sexism and striving for equality in a White-male-dominated world.
“During American slavery, Africana women were as harshly treated physically and mentally as were their male counterparts, thereby invalidating the alignment of Africana women and White women as equals in the struggle. The endless chores of the Africana woman awaited her both in and outside the home. Africana men and women have been equal partners in the struggle against oppression from early on. Thus, they could not afford division based on sex. In the African American slave experience, Africana men and women were viewed the same by the slave owners, thereby negating traditional (African and European) notions of male or female roles.”
Valuable study for both genders
Such study has proved valuable to African American students of both genders. Aldridge and Young state that Black Studies has empowered the Black student in noting that this academic challenge was a direct response to the mandate for change at all levels that characterized the Civil Rights Movement and the social rebellions of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.
At the modern HCBU campuses, most have established courses in Black Studies, but few have departments dedicated to the field. Only Howard and Clark Atlanta universities offer a Master of Arts in Black Studies. Howard is the only HBCU to offer a doctoral program in African Studies; eight traditionally White institutions (including Princeton and Yale) also offer a Ph. D in African Studies.
Why don’t more HBCUs offer a diploma in Black Studies? The problem is money.
“A program in African American Studies is very difficult to sustain in good times, and it’s near impossible in tough times,” said Dr. Johnny Taylor, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. “However, some of the majority institutions have been able to get someone to underwrite less popular programs.”
The University of Wisconsin-Madison offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in Black Studies, much to the disappointment of Dr. Mayibuye Monanabela who is among the founders of the Africana Studies department at Tennessee State University. He said getting students to major in Black Studies is often difficult primarily because, outside of teaching, there are not many well-paying trades that would require such professional acumen.
“We (HBCUs) should be doing better,” Monanabela said. “When students are ready to sign-up for a major, they ask ‘What can I do with a degree in Africana Studies?’“
Dr. David H. Jackson Jr., chair of the department of history and political science (which includes Black Studies) at Florida A&M University, believes the current attitude toward Black Studies among African American students could be an obstacle in the field’s development.
“If I looked at FAMU and the country in general from the 1980s and early ’90s in terms of an aggressive attitude toward embracing Black culture, I don’t see that as much now,” he said. As well, some Black students at predominantly White institutions may have the assumption that students at an HBCU tend to be “Africa-centered” or “radical,” and that belief could contribute to an apathy about the subject, which is in direct contrast with the roots of Black Studies programs.
Looking toward the future
HCBUs faced internal challenges in developing these programs as an older generation of administrators may have been reluctant to establish such a curriculum, because of the association with “militancy” and for fear of losing support from outside communities. Also, some HBCUs felt that because they were Black institutions, they were not obligated to dedicate a department to the subject because “just being a Black school was sufficient.”
At Princeton, Black Studies has proven to be a popular and successful program. Dr. Eddie Glaude Jr., chair of the Center for African American Studies at the New Jersey campus, believes the burgeoning interest in Black Studies may provide ground for a degree program.
“I think we’re seeing a new phase in the presence of Black Studies in higher education,” Glaude said. “We need to find an institutional configuration that reflects the complexity and nuance of the field. We haven’t changed our name to ‘Diaspora studies,’ and we have insisted that in order to mark that, as a field, Black Studies should be thought of more broadly.”
People of African ancestry have a long history and tradition in practically every region of the world. This history has been hallmarked by a number of struggles for recognition and against discrimination. In the present context of global uncertainty and the political reshaping of nation states Black Studies can play an essential role in the examination of the world’s Black population and the challenges that lie ahead.
This article originally appeared in Our Weekly News.
As a child, in between born into an interracial family, Poet Michele Reese knew she wanted to write about the Black experience with works that delved into African American history, from very early on.
She bared the words from her soul in front of a room full of young writers with her son sitting in the front row as she read from her first published book of poems, Following Phia, which indirectly focuses on her journey through life, sexuality, race, motherhood, and other topics.
“My home sits in sandy soil, where once indigo was caked in lye, I’ve painted my children’s walls haint blue to keep them safe from mosquitoes and restless spirits,” she said. “They have been fed from my breasts, bathed in tepid water to bring down fevers, inoculated, taught to swim… I have done all the things that mothers do to tether their children,” Reese read at Xavier University’s Fall Literary Reading series on Oct. 4th.
Reese started her writing journey very similarly to other writers. It was one of her own teachers in middle school that inspired her to pick up the pen and write what she was feeling, whether it was about what she ate that morning, or how she was feeling about rainy mornings in West Virginia. All she knew was that she had to write.
“It was my own English teacher in seventh grade that made me write a poem,” she said, “I’m pretty sure it was for an assignment, but I haven’t stopped writing ever since. I had no clue it would be paying my bills today,” Reese said.
As the daughter of a Jamaican Immigrant, Reese began to tell stories through her poetry that dealt with race, intersection, gender, sexuality, slavery, and much more. These very stories were things not just about slaves and their struggles, but also about her own Jamaican family heritage.
Although she grew up in West Virginia, a mostly White-populated state, Reese never lost sight of her Jamaican roots. She was determined to begin writing poetry that dealt with African-American history, symbolism, and culture. It helped her to connect with the Black experience.
“I am tired of being beneath him. I cannot wait to escape,” Reese read from one of her poems, discussing the rapes of African-American enslaved women.
Although these topics were not always so easy to discuss, read, or write about, that did not stop her from writing about them. These were messages she believed needed to be talked about, especially ones about race and gender. She felt drawn to these topics because of the Jamaican blood running through her veins.
As a way to branch out and get away from West Virginia, the poet went to the University of Southern California where she earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing/poetry and print journalism in 1994. She then went on to graduate school and then earned her doctorate in 2000. The poet’s latest work, Following Phia, was published earlier this year and focuses on the journey of her life, both spiritually and intellectually. Reese discusses her travels, her love of being a mother, her heritage, and much more throughout the book.
“As the child of an immigrant, a Jamaican Immigrant at that, race was something I really wanted to tackle in my writing,” Reese said. She often wished she had poems that were light-hearted, and a little less serious, but she never stopped writing them because she knew the Black experience is never an easy subject. She wanted her readers to really connect with the struggles and the joys of being Black.
“I wish I had some more funny poems,” Reese said. “But a poet named Pat Parker wrote a powerful piece titled, “Where Would I Be,” and that kind of made me realize we have to have the courage to stand up for what we believe in and as a writer I think that’s very important,” she said.
Some of Reese’s poems have been published in several journals like The Oklahoma Review, Poetry Midwest, The Tulane Review, and Hand in Hand: Poets among others. She also is a former writer for The Watering Hole. The organization, founded by Candace G. Wiley, a Clemson University Professor in 2009, first started off as a small Facebook group. Since then, it has attracted dozens of members and their writers have earned numerous awards.
As a writer, there is a very slim chance your work will get published, Reese said, because someone must find it and fall in love with it. “If you are a writer, even if you just started, do not give up. Believe in yourself and in your writing, even if no one else does,” Reese said. “Continue telling those stories that people are afraid to tell because they deserve to be heard. Just like news reporters, poets tell stories,” she added.
Young writers like David Evans, a Xavier student, said that as a frequent writer himself, he couldn’t help but feel touched not only by Reese’s work, but by her sincerity as a writer.
“You can tell her writing comes from a place of realness,” Evans said. “As a writer, I felt the urge to pick my pencil up and start writing those things I’m so scared to write about because we all have a voice, even through ink and paper.”
He said he is grateful that Reese took the time to inspire another generation of writers with her story. “Writing has no limits. It is all about what you feel and sometimes even about what you have been through,” he said. Young Black writers don’t always get to see themselves in poetry, according to Biljana Obradovic, the English Department Head at Xavier. She wanted her students to have more knowledge on how to publish their work and to be exposed to different types of work. Not only did Reese come and just share her work, she gave aspiring writers an even greater message to leave with: To believe in themselves, their voice, and in their writing, “She is an amazing writer because her writing is sincere,” said Obramovic who met Reese six years ago during a teaching trip to Italy.
“Her writing speaks to the soul, and her writing speaks for a lot of minorities with similar views, similar heritage and those who have faced similar adversities. I am able to teach students that come from all over the world, and at an HBCU, I think it is so important for students in general to use their voice,” Obradovic said.
Earlier this year, a man named Jack Weldon Patrick passed away in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. A long-time lawyer, Patrick was remembered as a family man, an advocate for social justice, and a respected community leader.
One day a check arrived by mail for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) in memory of Jack Weldon Patrick. A few days later, another one arrived, and a few weeks later, another check. Individual donations kept coming to support the work of TMCF and our publicly-supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in honor of Jack. His obituary read, “in lieu of flowers the family suggests memorial donations in Jack’s name to causes he cared deeply about.” One of those causes was TMCF.
So many of us outside of TMCF headquarters and Menomonee may have never known Jack as a stalwart of access and opportunity for students attending Black colleges. Many of us aren’t even aware that Jack was part of the reason why in 2016, private giving and contracts earned by HBCUs increased for a second straight year, posting a four-year high of $320 million. But we do know he was a living embodiment of the famous quote by Nelson Henderson: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”
While philanthropic anonymity is honorable, philanthropic leadership helps organizations like TMCF reach new supporters, encouraging new donor circles to give. Showcasing the faces and stories of those who give is an important tool in cultivating similar donors, encouraging a culture of giving around our campuses. This is a critical strategy that grows an organization’s base of support every year. For non-profit organizations, individual giving is the largest type of charitable gift – four times the amount as the next largest category in 2015, according to Giving USA.
Organizations like TMCF thrive due to the generosity of individuals who believe in our work and want to expand our impact, through monthly and annual donations, as well as the legacy gift. TMCF combines these individuals’ gifts with foundation grants and partnerships with major corporations and government agencies to provide the funds that allow us to transform lives. It takes a philanthropic village to develop young minds, and we are humbled to be good stewards of the resources that our donors and partners entrust to us.
TMCF, its 47 member-schools and the nearly 300,000 students attending them each year, want to play a role in redefining HBCU philanthropy and support. The data on finances and the number of degrees we produce in areas like STEM, education, social sciences and criminal justice already show just how productive HBCUs continue to be in graduating Black students. Seventy percent of our publicly-supported HBCUs attendees are first generation college students (like I was) and eligible for Pell Grants. In comparison, the national average is only 37 percent for all public schools. By providing this quality education, students transform their lives and prepare to enter economically sustainable careers. Now TMCF wants to illustrate that same culture within our giving networks.
Anyone believing in the power of education to transform lives should invest in HBCUs. This includes alumni who want to have a tangible way to support their schools. All people in our networks at work, at church, in our communities, fraternities and sororities, and other circles of activity are worthy of soliciting for support. Age, earnings and personality are not elements for disqualifying those who might be willing to give, or those who have the capacity to do so.
So today, we honor one man—Jack Weldon Patrick—and his commitment to HBCUs, and we thank his friends and family for their continued investment in the work of TMCF. We hope his example encourages others to consider impacting people’s lives by supporting our nation’s HBCUs.
Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from Howard University
(Trice Edney Wire) – Howard University alumnus and award-winning actor Chadwick Boseman spoke to graduates about the significance of making it to the top of the Hilltop during the Howard University 2018 Commencement Convocation May 12.
In front of an audience of more than 8,000 family and friends, Boseman encouraged the graduates to not only exceed in their next steps, but also strive to achieve their life’s purpose.
“When you have reached the Hilltop and you are deciding on next steps, you would rather find purpose than a career. Purpose is an essential element of you that crosses disciplines,” said Boseman.
He applauded the members of the class of 2018 for climbing up their academic slopes and making it up the Hilltop.
“The Hilltop represents the culmination of the intellectual and spiritual journey you have undergone while you were here,” said Boseman. “Each of you have had your own difficulties with The Hill, but it’s okay because you made it on top. Sometimes, you need to feel the pain and sting of defeat to activate the real passion and purpose that God predestined inside of you.”
Boseman also declared Alma Mater, “a magical place – where the dynamics of positive and negative seems to exist in extremes.” He referenced an inspirational moment he experienced when meeting the iconic Muhammad Ali on the University yard; highlighting how at Howard, magical moments can happen to give students powerful encouragement on their toughest days.
“I remember walking across this yard, when Muhammad Ali was walking towards me with his hands raised in a quintessential guard. I was game to play along with him,” said Boseman. “What an honor to be challenged by the G.O.A.T. I walked away floating like a butterfly…walked away light and ready to take on the world. That is the magic of this place. Almost anything can happen here.”
A native of South Carolina, Boseman graduated from Howard University and attended the British American Dramatic Academy at Oxford University. Thereafter, Boseman began his career as an actor, director and writer. He starred as T’Challa/Black Panther in the worldwide phenomena Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Boseman’s breakout performance came in 2013 when he received rave reviews for his portrayal of the legendary Jackie Robinson in Warner Bros’ “42.” He previously starred in the title role of Open Road Films’ “Marshall” alongside Josh Gad. The film tells the story of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, who graduated as valedictorian from Howard University School of Law in 1933.
This year’s Commencement Convocation marks the commemoration of Howard University’s 150th graduating class. Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick said the University’s establishment represents one of the most noteworthy accomplishments in the history of American colleges and universities.
During his remarks, Dr. Frederick discussed how Boseman and his classmates advocated and participated in a three-day protest against the University to dismiss an initiative to transition the College of Fine Arts into the Department of Fine Arts. The protest was unsuccessful in stopping the transition. However, today Frederick, alongside Boseman, announced a campaign to re-establish the College of Fine Arts and launch an Endowed College of Fine Arts Award.
To the Class of 2018, Dr. Frederick encouraged the graduates to be bold as they embark into their chosen careers.
“Don’t stand safely on the sidelines; take risks, learn how to be wrong. It is the best way to learn and grow,” said Dr. Frederick. “Build a culture of generous listening so that others may be emboldened to take risks, too.”
Howard University awarded 2,217 degrees, including 343 master’s degrees, and 90 Ph.Ds. More than 382 students received professional degrees in law, medicine, pharmacy and dentistry. Howard University has the only dental and pharmacy colleges in the District of Columbia. The 2018 graduates represent 39 states and 32 countries; 117 graduates are from the District of Columbia.
In addition to Boseman, who received the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, the 2018 Howard University honorary degree recipients included:
Vivian W. Pinn, honorary Doctor of Science. Pinn was the first full-time director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and was associate director for research on women’s health at NIH. She held these positions from 1991 until her retirement in 2011. During that time, she established and co-chaired the NIH Committee on Women in Biomedical Careers with the NIH Director. Since her retirement, she has been named as a senior scientist emerita at the NIH Fogarty International Center. Pinn came to the NIH from the Howard University College of Medicine where she had been professor and chair of the Department of Pathology since 1982, the third woman in the United States to hold such an appointment. She was honored by the College of Medicine as one of its “Magnificent Professors” in 2014.
Colbert I. King, honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. King writes a weekly column that runs in The Washington Post. In 2003, King won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for “his against-the-grain columns that speak to people in power with ferocity and wisdom.” King joined the Post’s editorial board in 1990 and served for several years as deputy editorial page editor. Earlier in his career, he was an executive vice president of Riggs National Bank, U.S. executive director of the World Bank, a deputy assistant secretary at the Treasury Department, minority staff director of the U.S. Senate’s District of Columbia Committee, a State Department diplomat stationed at the U.S. embassy in Bonn, Germany, and a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Adjutant General’s Corps. King grew up in Washington. He is married to Gwendolyn King, whom he met at Howard University while they were both undergraduates.
Gwendolyn Stewart King, honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. She is president of Podium Prose, a speaker’s bureau and speechwriting service in Washington, D.C. Prior to the launch of the company, King was the senior vice president of corporate and public affairs for PECO Energy Company (now known as Exelon) until her retirement in 1998. From 1989 to 1992, she served as the eleventh Commissioner of Social Security. She held high-level U.S. government appointments in Inter-Governmental Affairs, Women’s Business Enterprise and Social Security from President Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush Administrations. King graduated cum laude from Howard University and has received the Alumni Award for Postgraduate Achievement. In 2008, she and her husband established the Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University.
Said Dr. Frederick. “Our 2018 honorary degree recipients are individuals who have reached great success in their respective professional fields. Each honoree embodies the spirit and aspiration that guides Howard’s mission of excellence in truth and service.”
By Dr. Harry L. Williams, (President and CEO, Thurgood Marshall College Fund)
Dr. Harry L. Williams, the president and CEO of TMCF, says that engagement with Republicans and the Trump Administration is working for the HBCU community.
A few months ago, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) was proud to welcome the presidents and chancellors from 30 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) to Washington, D.C. for the second annual HBCU Fly-In held in conjunction with the leadership of Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.), who are both members of the very important, bipartisan HBCU Caucus.
My experience as a former HBCU president and now leader of TMCF, working on behalf of our 47 publicly-supported HBCUs, gives me a broad perspective on the federal government’s partnership with HBCUs, as delivered through this event’s multiple listening sessions and direct engagement opportunities with members of Congress and senior leadership within the Trump Administration.
Thanks to the commitment of dozens of our HBCU presidents and chancellors who attended our inaugural convening and this year’s fly-in, we’re beginning to see major developments from several federal agencies looking to increase support for HBCUs and to create more opportunities for our scholars.
Thanks to our collective advocacy, several HBCUs that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 received total forgiveness of outstanding loans awarded for the restoration of their campuses in the hurricane’s aftermath. Southern University at New Orleans, Dillard University, Xavier University, and Tougaloo College are free of their repayment obligations on more than $300 million in federal loans, because of direct engagement with and action from this administration and congressional leadership on issues of critical importance to our HBCU’s, like this one.
Perhaps the most significant indicator of our growing partnership has been the achievement of level funding in the President’s FY’ 2019 budget proposal and within the recent Omnibus Appropriations Bills. For example, the FY’ 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill had major wins for HBCUs:
Pell Grant Maximum Award
FY’17 Funding Level: $5,920 (per student)
FY’18 Funding Level: $6,095 (+$175/increase of 2.96 percent)
Title III, Part B and F, Strengthening HBCUs Undergraduate Programs
FY’17 Funding Level: $244.6 million
FY’18 Funding Level: $279.6 million (+$34 million/increase of 14.3 percent)
Title III, Part B, Strengthening HBCUs Graduate Programs
FY’17 Funding Level: $63.2 million
FY’18 Funding Level: $72.3 million (+$9 million/increase of 14.3 percent)
Title III, Part A, Strengthening PBI Program
FY’17 Funding Level: $9.9 million
FY’18 Funding Level: $11.3 million (+$1.4 million/increase of 14.3 percent)
Title VII, Master’s Degree Program at HBCUs and PBIs
FY’17 Funding Level: $7.5 million
FY’18 Funding Level: $8.5million (+$1 million/increase of 14.3 percent)
We are cognizant that many lawmakers in the majority in Congress favor fiscal austerity to address budgetary issues, but in a legislative environment dominated by talks of budget cuts, critical HBCU funding lines were increased, which is a demonstrable return on our collective investment in bipartisan engagement.
Indeed, TMCF’s decision not to resist, but instead engage in a strategic way and bipartisan fashion on behalf of our nearly 300,000 HBCU students who need a voice in Congress and with the Trump Administration has borne fruit at many levels. I am optimistic that many of our presidents and chancellors departed the nation’s capital with a clearer sense of the propriety of this strategy given our mutual goals, and now having the benefit to witness the rewards of this advocacy effort. TMCF will not stop engaging with all of our federal partners, because bipartisan advocacy with the Congress and engagement with the Trump Administration is paying dividends for our nation’s HBCUs.
Dr. Harry L. Williams is the president & CEO of Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), the largest organization exclusively representing the Black College Community. Prior to joining TMCF, he spent eight years as president of Delaware State University. Follow him on Twitter at @DrHLWilliams.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced new leadership for the White House Initiative on HBCUs.
Johnny C. Taylor Jr. is now the new Chairman of the President’s Board of Advisors on the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. This position comes not long after Taylor was appointed to be the president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in June of last year. Taylor is the former president of Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
At the White House event announcing the new leadership, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos praised HBCUs for their cultural and historical significance in her remarks ahead of Trump.
“HBCUs play a very important role in American education,” she said, according to CBS News.“Under President Trump’s leadership in supporting and uplifting HBCUs, we are taking important steps to ensure that HBCUs and the students they serve remain influential players in their communities and in our country.”
DeVos then introduced Trump, who touted the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and thanked the team working on the initiative.
Trump also praised HBCUs as being “cherished and vital.” A White House press release notes that Trump’s proposed 2018 and 2019 budgets maintain funding for HBCUs.
Taylor offered his own words about the appointment. “Every year, over 300,000 students turn to these institutions for their education and to prepare them for their careers. This president’s advisory board can be a nexus between higher educational institutions and employers,” he said.
DeVos and Trump have a rock relationship with HBCUs
We’re not fooled by Trump and DeVos making a big show of their support for HBCUs.
We haven’t forgotten the fact that DeVos called HBCUs “pioneers of choice” and had to issue an apology for her comments.
“When I talked about it being a pioneer in choice it was because I acknowledge that racism was rampant and there were no choices,” she said in August after her comments caused massive backlash. “These HBCUs provided choices for Black students that they didn’t have.”
Some HBCU students did not accept the apology. In May of 2017, Bethune-Cookman University students booed DeVos and turned their backs to her as she tried to give remarks during their graduation ceremony.
We also haven’t forgotten that infamous picture of Trump surrounded by HBCU presidents in what turned out to be more of a photo opportunity than an actual productive meeting.
After nearly a century of educating Black students, Concordia College in Selma, Alabama announced on Wednesday that it will cease operations at the end of the spring semester.
“It was the toughest thing I’ve had to do in my 50 years of higher education,” Dr. James Lyons, the interim president of Concordia, told the Selma Times Journal, adding that the students “were quite shocked” by the news.
Like Concordia, many of the more than 100 HBCUs across the nation have dire financial problems, partly because operating costs are increasing while enrollment and financial aid decrease. Students at HBCUs are disproportionately low-income. About 70 percent of all HBCU students rely on federal grants and work-study programs to finance their education at a time when the Trump administration seeks ways to cut higher education funding.
Concordia, which opened in 1922, needed a minimum of $8 million to pay its debts and keep the doors open for at least one year—just enough money to buy time to find major investors. “It’s very difficult to operate an institution with the lowest possible tuition and fees when you are faced with escalating costs,” Lyons stated.
HBCUs are worth fighting for because, despite the challenges, they educate scores of Black students who would otherwise not attend college. These institutions accept scores of “at risk” students who need remedial academic work after graduating from public school systems that failed to educate them. Although they represent just 3 percent of all colleges and universities, HBCUs graduate more than 20 percent of Black college students and a disproportionately higher percentage of students who earn STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees, compared to majority White institutions.
Since 1837, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been educating and preparing, primarily, but far from exclusively, African American students – nearly a quarter of HBCU students are non-Black – to contribute to the American experience. These institutions help fill the nation’s dual pipeline of productivity: providing diversely talented employees and creating employment opportunities. They consistently add both workers and job-creation to their state and local economies.
The study sheds an important light on HBCUs in the modern era. The institutions, spanning 19 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands, disproportionately take on the challenge of providing first-generation, low-income, minority, rural and inner-city students the opportunity to earn college degrees.
Impressively, for example, HBCUs comprise just three percent of all nonprofit colleges and universities, but enroll 10 percent of African American college students, and are responsible for 17 percent of African Americans earning their bachelor’s degrees and 24 percent of African Americans earning their credentials in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The UNCF study is a wonderful contribution – a foundation stone on which we can pursue new areas of exploration to develop enduring strategies and attract commensurate investment to increase the all too often unheralded or overlooked value of America’s HBCUs.
Connecting to Innovation Ecosystems
To build on our nation’s leadership position in the global economy, over the past half-century, America has invested heavily in developing the world’s most advanced countrywide network of regional innovation ecosystems to support talent development, creativity, research, commercialization, entrepreneurship and job creation. Unfortunately, the government, philanthropic, business and community leaders who have led the rise of – and maintain stewardship within – these fantastic ecosystems have not been successful connecting these forward-looking investments to HBCUs and the populations and communities they principally serve. This undermines prospects to grow and equip a deep and diverse enough pool of Americans to power national prosperity for generations to come.
The absence of inclusive and diverse innovation ecosystems demands the development and adoption of frameworks and strategies embedded with the magnificent contributions of HBCUs. The ROI: HBCUs can help more Americans improve their connectivity to and productivity within the 21st century economy.
Endgame: More Talent to Fuel U.S. Competitive Advantage
For most of the 20th century, those principally served by HBCUs were not able to contribute their full talent to the national economy. Yet, in those days, America could economically lead the globe with proverbially one hand tied behind her back.
In other words, back then, U.S. economic competitiveness was assured even without optimal productivity from large swaths of our population. This is no longer the case.
In today’s economy, where relentless global competition for jobs and opportunity is the new normal, the immutable laws of economic prosperity do not allow America to sustain global leadership without greater contributions from more Americans – especially the latent and untapped abilities of those principally served by HBCUs.
In January, President Trump attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Of note, Klaus Schwab, Founder of the World Economic Forum, may have put it best when he said, “Capital is being superseded by creativity and the ability to innovate – and therefore by human talents – as the most important factors of production. If talent is becoming the decisive factor, we can be confident in stating that capitalism is being replaced by talentism.”
In the age of “talentism,” awakening the dormant abilities of more Americans and connecting them to the economy is the most promising path to new wealth generation, greater new job-creation and increased business output. These enhancements will improve our national economic competitiveness and quality of life for Americans, and, importantly, strengthen our national security.
Quite simply, the American economy grows more competitive when educational access is widely available. Our nation’s HBCUs broaden education access, and their positive impact on the country is undeniable. The White House Initiative on HBCUs is excited to partner across the federal government and with the private sector to foster investment in HBCUs to grow their contributions to America; as such, contributions are vital to the competitiveness of the United States.