|Photo courtesy of Florida A&M University Facebook page
Last week, before news headlines became consumed by Sally Yates’ stellar testimony and James Comey’s dismissal, Donald Trump issued a signing statement on the $1.1 trillion omnibus government spending bill. In this statement, Trump singled out the Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Program as a funding bill provision that “allocates benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender.” The statement suggested that Trump, the guy responsible for the travel ban and appointing Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, views such funding as discriminatory.
Trump (much like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos) lacks an awareness of the history of HBCUs and the enormous contributions these esteemed institutions make to the nation. Of course, this is not surprising considering the prior statements he’s made on the state of Black American communities and his Black History Month remarks on Frederick Douglass and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If he’d simply read ( or have someone read to him) the U.S Department of Education’s pamphlet on HBCU history, then he’d surely benefit from understanding the following facts about HBCUs.
1. The first structured higher education system for Black students, the Institute for Colored Youth, was founded in Cheyney, Pennsylvania in 1837 because law and public policy prohibited the education of Blacks in various parts of the nation.
2. Following the Civil War, racial segregation denied entry of Blacks to traditionally White institutions. The Second Morrill Act of 1890 provided a land-grant institution for black students whenever a land-grant institution was established and restricted for white students and such public land-grant institutions specifically for blacks were established in each of the southern and border states.
3. In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision established a “separate but equal” doctrine in public education thus validating racial segregation in education and making the existence of HBCUs integral to the higher educational needs of Blacks.
4. Although HBCUs exist because of America’s history of racial segregation, these institutions are open and accessible to all students regardless of race, color or ethnicity. Today, HBCUs are more racially desegregated in regard to staff and enrollment than traditionally White institutions.
5. By 1953, such institutions as Hampton Institute, Howard University, Meharry Medical College, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Fisk University and Tuskegee Institute were primarily responsible for educating teachers, ministers, lawyers, doctors and other pillars of the Black community in a racially segregated society.
6. Today, HBCUs award nearly half of baccalaureate degrees earned by Black college students.
7. HBCUs lead the pack in terms of the segment of graduates who go onto pursue and finish graduate degrees and professional training programs.
8. Currently, 75% of Blacks with doctorate degrees, 75% of Black officers in the armed forces and 80% of Black federal judges can credit their undergraduate education to HBCUs. In fact, Omarosa Manigault, the director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison for the Trump administration, received her undergraduate degree from Central State University and her graduate degree from Howard University—both of which are HBCUs.
9. The leading institutions for awarding bachelor’s degrees in scientific, mathematical and engineering concentrations are HBCUs. One great example is Lonnie George Johnson, a Black scholar who invented the Super Soaker and made enormous contributions to the U.S. Air Force Weapons Laboratory, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and the development of solid state batteries. He was educated at Tuskegee University, an HBCU.
10. HBCUs also benefit traditionally White research universities because half of the Black faculty employed at these institutions received their bachelor’s degrees at an HBCU.