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Essay Submission: "Living the HBCU Legacy" Posted on 07-28-2008
leslie.2007
Vicksburg, MS
Historically Black Colleges and Universities played an important role in American history and continue to play a role today. They have made many contributions ranging from liberal arts and sciences to athletics. Many successful people, all of who have most likely enjoyed their HBCU experience, graduated from HBCUs. A learning experience from an HBCU is a unique one. One that no one will ever forget. In what ways have HBCUs contributed to American history? They have provided an educational opportunity that African-Americans would have never had because predominantly white colleges would not admit them, not to mention the high racial tension. Another way black colleges contributed to American history would be their famous alumni. Athletes including Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State), Steve McNair (Alcorn State), and Walter Payton (Jackson State) were among some of the best players in the NFL. Entertainers such as Spike Lee (Morehouse College), Lionel Richie (Tuskegee Institute), Tom Joyner (Tuskegee Institute), Rapper Common (Florida A&M), and Yolanda Adams (Texas Southern) are HBCU grads. Some such as Richie started their careers at black colleges. In science and literature, alumni include Lonnie Johnson who invented the super-soaker water gun ( Tuskegee University), Ralph Ellison author of Invisible Man (Tuskegee Institute), Toni Morrison author of Song of Solomon and Beloved (Howard), and Alice Walker best known for The Color Purple is a graduate of Spelman. Even though these people have attended different HBCUs, one thing they do have in common is they credit their success to these respective institutions. Black college football. The sound of the band. Step shows. That is a portion of the HBCU experience that cannot be experienced at white colleges. Sure, people can go there to watch football games and hear the band play, but it is a complete difference. Just like in the past, black colleges and universities continue to provide a tradition that blacks cannot experience anywhere but a black college. (That is one of the ways HBCUs are relevant today.) Aside from sports, black colleges provide predominantly black organizations such as fraternities, sororities, and the NAACP (I’m not saying white colleges don’t have this), which have more opportunities at black schools. Some people believe that their job opportunities are increased because employers and recruiters come to black institutions to hire minorities. Another reason why HBCUs are relevant today is that blacks learn more about their history and what’s going on in the black community. Since I attend an HBCU, I have learned many things about my race and what’s going on in the community that I probably wouldn’t have known about had I matriculated into a white institution. Black colleges are relevant today because of the unique experience, job opportunities, and learning about African-American history and culture. Lessons we can learn are that black schools are just as good as white schools if not better. Degrees from black colleges do count; look at successful people like former secretary Rod Paige and Representative Bennie Thompson both of whom are alumni of Jackson State University. Also the statistics says one in six black lawyers, dentists, and physicians is a graduate of Fisk University, Xavier University is number one in placing blacks in medical school, and Howard is number one for blacks graduating with PhDs. So there’s no doubt success comes from HBCUs. The main lesson is to support HBCUs because if African-Americans don’t support them, who will? The HBCU experience is a unique one. Most people have enjoyed their experience. I have personally enjoyed mine and have learned so much. HBCUs have contributed to American history by producing the nation’s first black fighter pilots (Tuskegee Airmen) and the first African-American governor, L. Douglas Wilder (Howard) just to name a few. HBCUs have provided opportunities in the past and still continue today and I will continue to support them. Leslie Smith Leslie Smith 449 Smith Road. Tuskegee University Vicksburg, MS 39180 PO Box 6955 [EMAIL="leslie.2007@yahoo.com"]leslie.2007@yahoo.com[/EMAIL] Tuskegee, AL 36088
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