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Giving Back Posted on 08-02-2008

Giving Back

Attending a Historically Black College and University (HBCUs) connects me to my African American roots and creates a comfortable and relatable educational environment. A Historically Black College is defined as an establishment made prior to 1964 whose mission is to educate African American men and women. Today there are approximately 117 HBCUs including Spelman College, Tuskegee University and Howard University. Several people question what is significant about an HBCU, what have they contributed to American society, and how they are relevant today? The importance of an HBCUs lies in the pride that is instilled in Black people, their credibility as accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency by the Secretary of Education, and achievements reflecting the struggle of the African American community. Historically black colleges have contributed to American society by giving Blacks an opportunity to learn a skill or trade and eventually of a higher education. Prior to the formation of HBCUs, southern states strongly opposed the education of Blacks. Teaching slaves to read and write was prohibited by law in most areas of the South. In 1837, Richard Humpleys founded Cheyney University in Pennsylvania, the first HBCU, which was originally established as a teaching elementary and high school, called The Institute of Colored Youth and late renamed Cheyney University. Lincoln College in Pennsylvania and Wilberforce College in Ohio were the next establishments in 1854 and 1856. Formal education for Blacks was virtually non-existent until after the Civil War. Following the Civil War there was a dramatic increase of HBCUs institutions funded by Freedman's Bureau, African Americans, churches and organizations. These HBCUs were mobilized to train and motivate Blacks and other minorities in mechanical and technical skills. Not only did HBCUs became a valuable resource for Blacks survival in the earlier periods of history, but they are responsible for producing luminaries such as Martin Luther King Jr. (Morehouse, Alex Haley (Alabama State), Oprah Winfrey (Tennessee State) and Thurgood Marshall and Phylicia Rashad (Howard University). These famous alumni have been an example to their Race for generations and will continue to be. They are still relevant today by making a higher education available and showing by example that African Americans can learn just as their White counterparts and showed what could be accomplished simply by their opportunity of a higher education. Today the contributions of HBCUs in American society are clearly evident as a vehicle for successful minority graduates. Some people believe Blacks are the only ones attending HBCUs, which is false. The majority of students are found to be Black but HBCUs include groups such as Native Americans and Hispanics. HBCUs conduce to society by making college affordable for families who can not furnish enrollment in Traditional White Institutions. Grant programs associated with HBCUs, such as The United Negro College Fund, provide financial assistance to underprivileged students such as grants, scholarships and intern programs. Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Ron Brown Scholarship and United Negro Fund are financial resources issued for minority students attending post-secondary education. Historically Black Colleges and Universities are relevant today because they continue to show African American students their true potential and prepare students for leadership positions in society. Statistics show those who graduate from HBCUs have higher rates of job satisfaction and participation in community services after graduating. HBCUs prepare students to be leaders in their communities and in society at large. Today over half of all African American professionals are graduates of HBCUs. Almost half of the members of the Congressional Caucus attended an HBCU. The proof of the power of a HBCU is in the success of its graduates. As the newer generations see the standards and achievements of our former as well as present. The African American leaders and the young people they influence will become the next generation of judges, lawyers, doctors, mayors, senators and presidents, setting the example for the next generation who may not have the usual financial means to attend a college but will meet up with others who are in a similar circumstance in their community and still overcome all obstacles and go on to achieve. I believe at a Historically Black College and University you learn who you are, where you came from and where you are going. You get an advantage of learning African American history and the struggle of former Black leaders and taking pride in all that our fore parents accomplished. You understand and gain realization that just over 40 years ago, Blacks still had to fight to attend a White College or University. White attending a HBCU you learn that you deserve equal opportunities in education and society. You realize that you owe yourself and your ancestors and former black leaders to be successful and you carry on the legacy and make their descendants, proud by graduating from college and taking your place in society.

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Home > Forums > Interest Groups > HBCU Specific Topics & Concerns > Scholarship Opportunities > Essay Submissions: Living the HBCU Legacy
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