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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Are HBCUs losing their historical mandates?

Graduation Day at Alabama A&M College, 1955 yearbook

What qualifies an institution of higher learning as an HBCU, its history or its mandate?
Historically, Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are institutions of higher education established after the civil war by those who wished to keep the races separated. Before the 1960s, their main mission was to serve the Black community, and both students, teachers, and administrators were predominately Black. Although all races were admitted and could teach at HBCUs, in recent years many have lost their Black majorities.
It's a misnomer to represent state-operated Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as "Black" just because campus administration, faculty, and students are predominately African American. Taking a closer look, you'll admit that these institutions are managed by governments and predominately "White" lawmakers, namely "White" governors, legislators and board members.
HBCUs, however, have a rich history regarding education and employment for Blacks in the United States.
Research suggests HBCUs "should be seen as possible models (rather than flashpoints) for producing student success because they consistently produce higher student engagement and outcomes than their Predominately White Institution (PWI) counterparts, particularly for African American students."

"HBCUs educate 300,000 students and employ over 14,000 faculty members.  Some black colleges are thriving, others are barely making ends meet, and many fall in between. Regardless, most of them are providing a much needed education to African American students (and many others)."
---American Association of University Professors
Two HBCUs I would like to highlight are Bluefield State College and Alabama A&M University. My mother matriculated at "Black" Bluefield State in West Virginia which is now considered a "White" university. She later worked at a "Black" college in Normal, Ala. where she met my father.

Commerce Dept., Bluefield State, 1949 yearbook
At Bluefield State, my mother majored in Business, and back then, pre-computer and printer age, exemplary typewriter skills meant typing correspondence and reports without errors. She went on to become secretary to a college president and later operated a floral business. She joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. at Bluefield and was hired by A&M without an interview at the recommendation of her college professor .
Bluefield State Pres. Dickason, 1949
Bluefield State College, formerly Bluefield Colored Institute, was "created to educate children of black coal miners in segregated West Virginia in 1895. Although it still receives the federal funding that comes with its designation as a historically black institution, today Bluefield State College is 90 percent white." The school is "The Whitest Historically Black College In America"---NPR
"Educational objectives create desires for excellence for ethical standards and a determination to find a way," said Bluefield State's president, Henry Dickason, who served from 1936-1952.
Another HBCU for which I have an affinity is A&M located right outside Huntsville, Ala. I  grew up on that college campus and attended the college nursery school at age two. Founded in 1875 as a land grant college, Alabama A&M University's student population is 92% Black. According to the school's website, A&M is the only 1890 land grant university offering four Ph.D. degree programs, and it is home to one of the largest graduate schools among HBCUs (1000 + students).

The Alma Mater song was written by the school's late president, J. F. Drake:

"Long may you live to bless the world
For right and justice take a stand
As from your rocky heights you view
Your children's work throughout the land." 

Morris Hall dormitory, named after my father who graduated and taught at A&M
According to the Detroit News, "Enrollment at HBCUs rose 4.5 percent between 2002 and 2012.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Blacks represented only 6 percent of full-time instructional faculty on university campuses in 2011. Among full-time professors, 4 percent were Black.

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