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Living The HBCU Legacy Posted on 08-01-2008

Historically Black and College and Universities represent a part of America that shows the growth a country can achieve when it strives to live up to its core tenets. The concepts of ‘’life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’’ did not seem to apply to African Americans and the newly liberated slaves faced several challenges following the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. One of the most urgent problems they faced was how they would be able to provide for their families, and education proved to be a key element needed for their survival. At the time, there were not any schools in existence whose goal was to cater to the specific needs of blacks, so the overwhelming need to teach African Americans led to the creation of the oldest known HBCU, the Institute for Colored Youth, founded in 1837. The land grants awarded by Congress following the Morill Act of 1962, helped many black schools get their institutions started, coupled with the cooperation of religious groups such as the Quakers and the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The generous donations from both white and black philanthropists as well as support in managing these school helped many universities from Tuskegee University to Howard University, remain open. The advances in the curriculum became evident as Historically Black Colleges began to do more than just to teach students to read and write, eventually becoming able to offer high school and college level courses as well as degrees. The result are a list of notable alumni who are successful in every major field from television with Oprah Winfrey and Ed Bradley to film with Spike Lee, and civil rights with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The important thing to remember is that this list consists of people who were educated in schools whose core objective was to ensure that African Americans were academically prepared for the world. To be honest, HBCU’s are a testimony to America’s unfavorable attitude towards African Americans in history from Reconstruction and Jim Crow to our present time. Excluding these institutions from the pages of American history would take away the progress that this country has made and could be perceived as a poor attempt by America to absolve itself of its guilt. For me personally, I have always viewed HBC’s as an environment where the student’s academic success is stressed and also a place where one’s history can be seen by each individual. I attend an HBCU myself, and I know that there is a tremendous responsibility that, we as students, have to uphold. It is not always said aloud, but can be inferred because of some of the negative comments that are associated with black schools from their admission standards to the curriculum. The reason why these schools are relevant is because I believe America is constantly watching to see whether our community and our schools can effectively contribute to today’s competitive standards. The lessons of tradition, responsibility and perseverance are universal ideals that cannot be erased.
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