Historically Black Colleges and Universities are an integral part of American History. HBCU’s stepped in and at a time when black Americans were not freely permitted to attend mainstream schools. Prior to the Civil War, higher education for blacks was pretty much non – existent. In fact, there were only two historically black private colleges, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and Wilberforce University in Ohio. For the select few that were allowed access to learning, they often had to do so in hostile environments or they taught themselves. Without HBCU’s black Americans would have gone uneducated and America would have missed out on the privilege of producing African-American leaders.
HBCU’s allowed for the first generation of free slaves access to the American dream. Without higher education they would have been relegated to the servitude positions. Now with access to education, America was able to produce black doctors, lawyers, teachers and other prominent positions in society. This was a big help to the black community. Before the civil rights movement, blacks were discriminated against and having black professionals to service their own communities helped out a great deal. This movement allowed for an already underserved community to prosper and thrive during the dark days before the civil rights movement.
In 1967, President Johnson formed an 11-member National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. In 1968 the commission’s report, informally known as The Kerner report, concluded that the nation was moving toward two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal. For this reason, among many, HBCU’s are still an important factor in the progression of African Americans. Unfortunately, despite the advancements and strides made by earlier generations, African Americans are still in “the struggle”. With black college enrollment lagging, we are losing out on a generation of black leaders. It’s evident that our youth are either not taking higher education seriously or they believe it is out of their reach. We need HBCUs to continue to do what they have done since its inception, providing a rich education in an environment that is both nurturing and safe from discrimination.
The younger generation can learn that, despite the discrimination and oppression they may feel, there are nurturing institutions of higher education that understand them. HBCUs understand the educational disparity experienced by African Americans and are poised to meet the needs of this group of students. Because we are a society separate and unequal HBCU’s provide an environment that is both familiar and comfortable, thereby, creating a more conducive learning experience. In conclusion, I am proud of the rich heritage of the HBCU system. Without the HBCUs there is a very good chance that black Americans would still be in the fields and kitchens filling the servant positions, as opposed to being movers and shakers on a global scale as we are today. With my mind’s ear, I can hear the HBCU’s crying out “Knowledge is Power!”