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Living the Legacy: An Essay Posted on 08-01-2008

Austin, TX
Historically black colleges and universities have contributed immensely to American history. By providing an avenue to the educational advancement of a systematically oppressed portion of society, these institutions of higher education fundamentally change the future of our nation. By asserting a constant presence and commitment to excellence, HBCU’s educate the youth of America, employ the people of America and invest in the future of our nation. Through the establishment of historically black colleges and universities, our nation has grown more prosperous and healthy as we look to a bright future, where everyone is welcomed and encouraged in higher education. Historically black colleges and universities are relevant today as they continue to provide high quality education from well established institutions. In my city, our HBCU is the oldest institution of higher education. Though systematically marginalized, the African American community and others with higher vision sought to establish a venue for growing minds that were not welcome in other institutions. By putting energy and effort where it is in dire need – such as furthering the education and investment of a marginalized portion of our society – we are equipping ourselves and our future with what is needed to prosper. The disparities in our society have not been eradicated. Even while we work towards the day when racism will be a thing of the past, HBCU’s will continue to be relevant as they provide a unique experience in higher education in the United States. The most important lesson I believe historically black colleges and universities share with us is tenacity in the face of great adversity. When organizations like the Freedmen’s Aid Society and the American Missionary Society of Congregational churches offered their time and energy establishing HBCU’s, it was done because there was a need for it and done in spite of the odds stacked against their success. Truly the stuff of “If we build it, they will come”, and the students came. Another crucial factor in this tenacity is holding the vision for what your efforts may truly enable. One endeavors to do the right and good thing regardless of the missing guarantee that their efforts will be met with success. Our world currently struggles with an **** pandemic, man-made climate change and numerous other odds stacked against humanity. Looking to the bravery demonstrated by the pioneers of HBCU’s in the late 1800’s, we can all move towards a brighter future. One may have hope for change or growth, but without moving your feet as you pray (as it has been said), all you have are words. Dr. King had a dream which he spoke of passionately, but he also marched, prayed, met with President Johnson, and sat down where he ‘should not’ have. As a citizen of this planet, it is my hope that as we move towards progress in the 21st century, we may demonstrate but a portion of what the pioneers of historically black college and universities did.
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