Della Britton, President and CEO of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, has written a fascinating article at BlackVoices.com, shining a spotlight on our imperiled HBCUs.
Entitled “HBCU Blues: America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the 21st Century,” Britton asserts that the state of our HBCUs may go from bad to worse as the current economic downturn persists. She writes, “…budget cuts, aging buildings and failing infrastructures, not to mention the preference of many students to attend other colleges and universities, have undercut the once vital role many of these schools played in educating and uplifting the black community.”
Historically Black Colleges and Universities served a vital purpose in the late 1800’s and early-to-mid 1900’s, empowering African Americans with a top notch education and an inclusive academic community at a time when access to most mainstream, white Universities was largely denied.
And while things aren’t exactly the way they were at the turn of the 20th Century, we are still overrepresented in America’s prisons, disproportionately impoverished and disproportionately jobless. It goes without saying that racism is still a major factor in the lives of black youth.
But according to Britton, with their numbers and academic accolades dwindling, “appeals made on behalf of legacy, which was once one of the bedrock defenses for maintaining HBCUs, are far less compelling.”
So what can be done to save our HBCUs? Are they not doing enough to reel in more black students? Is the quality of education at many HBCUs beyond repair? Or is the idea of attending college “among people with the same cultural background and values” no longer palatable to a generation of black youth raised in a post-Civil Rights, post-Obama era?