GRAND OPENING of the Center for Minority Serving Institutions


Students from underrepresented populations face mounting barriers in obtaining access and completing postsecondary education. While myriad factors such as class and geographical environment certainly affect educational opportunities, the study of race and ethnicity remains vital to combating racial inequalities in higher education.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Asian American, Native American and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) are institutional lifelines for underserved students seeking higher education. The creation of these institutions emerged at a time when majority institutions refused admission or failed to provide inclusive policies to such students.

Today, these institutions serve as a tool to strengthen minority student voices, in conjunction with producing college graduates, professionals, uplifting minority serving communities, and inspiring others to continue in their traditions. These institutions continue to play a vital role, enrolling approximately 3.6 million (20%) of the undergraduate population.

ImageSource: Center for Minority-Serving Institutions, 2013

Today, January 21, 2014, marks an important milestone as the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education opens the Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSIs). Under the direction of Dr. Marybeth Gasman, CMSI strengthens the voice of underrepresented students at these institutions through research and student engagement. It seeks to serve students, faculty, administrators, and scholars in optimizing the uniqueness and resources of this diverse population. More important, CMSI provides implications for teaching, fostering community, and increasing racial diversity for any institution of higher education.

We invite you to take a look at CMSI’s website (, and take part in this community. You may become an instrument to broadcast these students’ voices.

Now Presenting: The Hamptonian Collection


Just in time for homecoming season, fellow Hamptonians Themba Nelson and Matthew Moses are pleased to announce the offficial launch of The Hamptonian Collection. Dig the scoop below:

Hampton University has recently approved a new apparel line. The Hamptonian Collection, while in its infancy, embraces Hampton’s traditions and employs many designs that will reflect the school’s smaller sports programs that include sailing, tennis, lacrosse, equestrian and aviation. 

The collection is not specifically designed to bring light to these teams but to present a new approach to campus paraphernalia. The school’s current offerings feel more like spirit-wear.  Hamptonian’s goal is to brand the Hampton spirit in a manor that extends far beyond the physical “Home by the sea.” The garments are designed to be worn in everyday wardrobe selections, not only at football games. 

The creators didn’t just make a few graphic Tshirts, they wanted to create a line that felt truly authentic. They researched old Hampton yearbooks, poured through archives and found artifacts that are as old as many of the traditions that exist on the campus today. The result is a collection that borrows from a cross section of musical, athletic, and cultural influences. The first piece was released September 15, 2013 and features a 1970’s era African American Pirate sketch, the University’s name and its founding year. 

The heather gray sweater is available now online at

7 Books Every HBCUs Student Should Read

I will never forget the first time I used the “T” word in one of my history classes.  Now, before I go on to explain what the “T” word is, if you have graduated from a HBCU and taken any course in African American history, you should already be familiar with the term.  In fact, you would know that the use of words such as “tribe,” “village,” “Indian,” or other westernized phraseologies that undermine African cultural sensibilities are strictly prohibited.

Across many HBCU departments, students are taught to respect and appreciate culture, society, and the political and educational contributions of peoples of African descent.  More important, we are reprogrammed to put away western modes of thinking, seeing, and doing, in exchange for developing an ethnocentric lens for which to view and critique the world.

Whether it was Booker T. Washington in the 1890s or Spike Lee and The Cosby’s in the 1990s, the message is still the same: Black is Beautiful. At HBCUs, students are awakened to Black consciousness.  Here are Seven (shout out to the Jewels) books I believe truly awakens the spirit to Black pride.

7. Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery: The Autobiography of Booker T. WashingtonUp From Slavery

6. George G. M. James, Stolen Legacyurl

5. Lawrence Ross Jr., The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororitiesurl-1

4. Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negrourl-2

3. Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Realityurl-3

2. W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folkurl-4

1. Ivan Van Sertima, They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient Americabeforecolumbus
What books would you add to the list?


Heart and Soul of the Movement: Influence of Historically Black Colleges and Universities on the Civil Rights Movement


Two nights after peacefully demonstrating for the right to bowl in a segregated Orangeburg, S.C. bowling alley, Robert Lee Davis lay on the blood-filled campus infirmary grasping for life.  Years later he recalled, “The sky lit up.  Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! And students were hollering, yelling and running. I went into a slope near the front end of the campus, and I kneeled down.  I got up to run, and I took one step that’s all I can remember.  I got hit in the back.” Davis was one of the fortunate survivors that night, now remembered as the Orangeburg Massacre, which took place on February 8, 1968 on the campus of South Carolina State University.  Twenty-seven other students shot that night survived. Three students including, Sam Hammond, Delano Middleton, and Henry Smith did not.  These students gave their lives for the movement.  Undoubtedly, the legacy of students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) is intrinsically linked to the success of the Civil Rights Movement.

Civil Rights Organizations. an outgrowth of sit-in movement had origins in conference at Shaw University. Apr 15-17, 1960

Civil Rights Organizations. an outgrowth of sit-in movement had origins in conference at Shaw University. Apr 15-17, 1960

On April 15, 1960, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed a crowd of over 200 students on the campus of Shaw University.  Speaking at the founding conference of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), King concluded, “The youth must take the freedom struggle into every community in the South without exception.” By 1960, young Black students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) operated as navigators of the rising tide of vast social and political change sweeping the nation. Although the juxtaposition of HBCUs into the Civil Rights narrative is complex, fluid, and understated, such institutions undoubtedly constituted the heart and soul of the Movement.

HBCUs served as institutions of solidarity.  Dorm rooms were transformed into meeting locations; quads became rallying centers, chapel basements transformed into training grounds for non-violent protests, and campuses banded together creating an intricate system of social networks.  Moreover, these institutions served as breeding grounds for the surfacing generation of Black leaders.


Students attending HBCUs such as King, Morehouse College, c/o 1948; Diane Nash, Fisk University, (entered fall 1959, received an honorary degree 2009); and Stokely Carmichael, Howard University, c/o 1964, emerged as key fixtures within the movement.

Preceded by his father and maternal grandfather, King’s entrance into Morehouse as a fifteen year old teenager, signaled the third generation of Kings to attend the school.  Of his Morehouse experience King recalled, “As soon as I entered college, I started working with the organizations that were trying to make racial justice a reality.”  High academic expectations and personal relationships also influenced King.  There he was introduced to Henry David Thoreau’s essay on “Civil Disobedience.”  He also forged lasting relationships with prominent leaders such as professor of philosophy and religion, George Kelsey, and Morehouse President, Benjamin Mays.  King’s Morehouse experiences brought him face to face with pressing social issues of the day where he “felt a sense of responsibility,” one which he “could not escape.”

Further north in Washington, D. C. students at Howard University continued to make their voices heard.  Out of the tradition of Ray Logan, Charles Hamilton Houston, and Thurgood Marshall, emerged a new group of students interested in creating new methods of combating Jim Crow.  It was an environment ripe for innovation, intellectual curiosity and social antagonism.  It was here where King, amongst many other students, heard President Mordecai Johnson lecture on civil disobedience and Gandhi.  A few years later in 1960, a young Trinidadian named Stokely Carmichael moved into Howard University’s Drew Hall.

Stokely Carmichael sporting a Howard Athletics sweatshirt.

Stokely Carmichael sporting a Howard Athletics sweatshirt.

At Howard, Stokely joined a diverse student body, which included foreign students from Africa and the Caribbean.  As a student, Stokely fell under the tutelage of esteemed scholars such as Toni Morrison and Sterling Brown.  His days at Howard were filled with activism and intellectual exchange.  Many of his peers spent countless nights at his Euclid street apartment formulating the blueprint for combating inequality.  Before graduation in 1964, Stokely joined the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG), the Howard branch of the SNCC, and marched with a host of leaders including the likes of Bayard Rustin.

Stokely, like many of his peers, refused to conform to the social stigmata which required them to be “nice, neat, clean, honest, and polite.”  According to Stokely, students felt propelled as they “grew more confident in our organizing skills, that we students could organize effective pressure inside the nation’s capitol, in international forums, and before the world media, to ensure that the U.S. government met its obligations to black education.”

Stokely recalled, “There can be no question as to the importance of the Howard experience in my formative life, but by far the most important element of that experience—morally, politically, culturally, and even emotionally—was the movement.

In similar fashion to Howard students, students across the nation at HBCUs were having much success organizing.  Still, not all schools were able to keep pace with more progressive schools such as Howard and Shaw.  State-dependent Southern HBCUs, beholden to state funds, and attempting to maintain a respectable image blacklisted would-be student activists.  Felton Clarke, President of Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for example, expelled roughly fifty student activists including H. “Rap” Brown.  Undeterred, Brown persisted in his efforts, joining Stokely and others in D.C. as members of SNCC.

Holistically, the rising tides of student activism at HBCUs were irreversible.  HBCUs from Texas to D.C. with or without support from administration contributed in some extent to the movement.  King recalled, “During the sit-in phase, when a few students were suspended or expelled, more than one college saw the total student body involved in a walkout protest.”  He concluded, “Seldom, if ever, in American history had a student movement engulfed the whole student body of a college.”

The cultural and political space provided by HBCUs casts students together in a way that could sustain growing momentum for the movement.  In this space, they coalesced into a more organized, militant agent of social change.  “I was convinced,” wrote King, “that the student movement that was taking place all over the South in 1960 was one of the most significant developments in the whole civil rights struggle.”

Title: Segregation, Civil Rights

Out of this space emerged SNCC at Shaw University; the February First Movement at North Carolina A&T; and the Nashville Student Movement at Fisk University. King characterized the impact of these moments best: “In 1960 an electrifying movement of Negro students shattered the placid surface of campuses and communities across the South.  The young students of the South, through sit-ins and other demonstrations, gave America a glowing example of disciplined, dignified non-violent action against the system of segregation.”

The Greensboro Four

The Greensboro Four

Check out these additional videos:

For additional reading material check out:

Clayborne Carson, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr.

Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker & the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision.

5 reasons my PhD belongs to an HBCU

Freshman year- c. 2004 Dr. McClure- 2013

Top: Freshman year- c. 2004
Below: Doctoral graduation 2013

This past Sunday, I finally completed the last leg to what seemed to be a lifelong race to finish my Doctoral program.  Ironically, I could not shake the incessant urge to keep looking back. Perhaps it was to catch a glimpse of my family who seemingly filled an entire section at FedEx Forum.  Perhaps it was more symbolic.  Perhaps it had something to do with the understanding that as I ceremoniously walked into a new future, I knew that it was my past that got me up on that stage.

First and foremost, I am indebted to the University of Memphis (U of M).  My advisors, Dr. G, Dr. Bond, Dr. Smallwood, and Dr. Gasman (from UPenn) all invested much into my success.  U of M provided me with unlimited resources, financial stability, and challenged me to master the craft of a historian.  However, I would not have made it to the U of M had it not been for my HBCUs.  Here are five reasons why:

  1. Much appreciation to that Hampton waterfront where I met my "smiley face" aka my wife

    Much appreciation to the Hampton waterfront where I met my “smiley face,” my wife Tracae.

  2.        1.    Hampton University took a chance on me.

The truth is, I should have never made it to college.  Ms. Brint Martin, an admissions recruiter for HU saw something in me.  Whatever she saw was a trait that could not be quantified by stats or through standardized testing.  She saw something in me that most colleges would have glossed over.  What she understood was that Hampton also had a responsibility (and the reputation) to mold young people into something great.  Hampton University not only believed in me, they gave me a chance to grow and to be successful.  Ms Martin made me promise to make her proud… This PhD is for you!

       2.    “What are you going to do with a 1.75 G.P.A???”

Maximizing that opportunity took time, time I may not have had if I were at a majority institution.  Bad study habits; unfamiliarity with the rigorous demands of the college life, and immaturity landed me with a whopping 1.75 G.P.A at the end of my freshman year.  I was mortified!

I quickly realized that this was not high school and that receiving bad grades was no longer cool.  So many “Big Brothers and Sisters,” faculty (shout out to Professors Foster, Blang, Robertson, Watson, and Calloway), staff, and administrators, pulled me to the side to tell me they expected more from me.  They gave me the tough love I needed.  Still thinking I was going to pledge that following year, one big brother laughingly asked, “What are you going to do with a 1.75 G.P.A?” He reminded me that pledging should have been the last thing on my mind.  Needless to say, I maintained over a 3.0 G.P.A from that point forward (And I pledged Alpha!)

       3.    “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Life at an HBCU is a struggle! The “Hampton run-around” as we liked to call it, certainly prepared me for graduate school struggles.  We may not have had the most up-to-date technology, (maps or smart boards in MLK for example), comprehensive financial packages, or academic resources, but we learned to build mansions with stones.

       4.    I learned what it meant to be a Black Historian

At North Carolina Central University, I learned the long history of the Black Historian.  Here, the importance of social responsibility and academic excellence was reaffirmed.  I learned about the significant contributions of George Washington Williams, Earl Thorpe, Helen Edmonds, Sylvia Jacobs, Benjamin Quarles, John Blassingame, Hubert Harrison, and John Hope Franklin.  Moreover, I learned that it was ok to tell ourstory.

       5.    Benefits of the real Social Network

I constantly benefited from the social network that exists amongst alumni of Black colleges.  In fact, if it had not been for Dr. Arwin Smallwood, an NCCU alum, I probably would not have been accepted to the U of M.  There, I met other HBCU graduates from Xavier, Florida A&M, and Tennessee State University.  Without their support and camaraderie I would not have made it through.

Walking across that stage was a culmination of educational experiences.  I must emphasize however, that it was an HBCU that gave me an opportunity when no other school would.  Peers, mentors, and faculty at HBCUs provided me with the much-needed tough love and shaped me into the young man I am today.  My struggles gave me character and perseverance.  There I learned the craft and benefited from the vast social network.  I may have walked across the stage to receive my degree from the University of Memphis, but this accomplishment will forever memorialize my connection to Historically Black Colleges and Universites. 

5th Quarter

HBCUs are historically known for educating African Americans during a time when they were not afforded a postsecondary education elsewhere; account for 3% of postsecondary institutions but award approximately 20% of African American undergraduates; serve as the foundation for many African American Doctorates and Professionals; house Black Greek fraternities and sororities; and engage in friendly athletic rivalries. But the pulse of HBCUs are their BANDS. HBCU bands differ from Non-HBCU bands based on their soulful musical compositions, dance, and precision. The 5th Quarter is the time where you can see HBCUs perform.

If Pandora were to create a HBCU Band station, it would sound something like this…




StateofHBCUs Top 5 HBCU Presidents

Within the past few years, leadership at our nation’s HBCUs have come under a firestorm of criticism.  Last year around this time, there were approximately sixteen open HBCU presidencies across the nation.  This conundrum led University of Pennsylvania scholar Marybeth Gasman to ask “What’s Going On?”

My soul rejoiced this morning after stumbling across a posting by HBCU Digest honoring their top five “Greatest HBCU Presidents.”  Rather than pointing out leadership’s shortcomings, constructing positive dialogue concerning the breadth of advancements and accomplishments of HBCU presidents proves to be a much more efficient and productive practice.

So, in the spirit of furthering that discussion, I have compiled a list of my top five influential HBCU presidents of all time.  My criteria for this list is simple- those who demonstrated the ability to fundraise, those who proved to be academic innovators, those who resisted and pushed back against political opposition, and those who fostered an atmosphere conducive to community building, social, political, and economic advancement.

1.  Booker T. Washington: Tuskegee Institute, 1881-1915 — Ok, maybe the fact that I have devoted the past three years of my life to reading and studying everything about Washington does in fact have something to do with him being rated number 1…  In reality, he tops the list for his uncanny ability to fundraise, to recruit students domestically and globally, and for his influence as an academic innovator, which was and arguably remains unmatched.  How many of you could turn a $2,000 appropriation into a million dollar institution while fighting Jim Crow?


2. Mordecai Wyatt Johnson: Howard University, 1926-1960 — As a proud Hamptonian it kills me to name a Howard president in the number two slot.  HU pride aside, Johnson, the first African American president of Howard, moved the University from having zero nationally accredited programs, to boasting ten schools and colleges (all fully accredited), 6,000 students, and an $8 million dollar budget.  Through Johnson, Howard stockpiled some of the most intelligent and accomplished faculty ever to exist in one institution, names such as: Sterling Brown, E. Franklin Frazier, Rayford Logan, Charles H. Houston, Eric Williams and Merze Tate.  Under his tutelage, Johnson mentored and produced generations of successful and influential young scholars.url-8

3. Johnnetta Cole: Spelman College, 1987-1997; Bennett College, 2002-2007 — As if being the first African American female president of Spelman was not enough, Cole took her talents to help develop and advance the mission of Bennett College.  Two accomplishments help land her in the number three slot.  Cole has maintained a commitment to the humanities (Maybe another self-admitted bias as a Doctoral candidate). Cole became the Presidential Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Women’s Studies and African American Studies at Emory.  Most recently, she successfully pushed for the creation of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History.  Secondly and maybe more importantly, Cole created a model of excellence and access for countless Black women.


4. Robert Moton: Tuskegee Institute, 1915-1935 — This spot could have gone to either Frederick D. Patterson, or Moton. Anyone attempting to fill the shoes of Booker T. Washington automatically belongs on this list.  Moton took over the presidency at one of the most critical moments in American history.  He navigated through, maintained, and advanced the standing of Tuskegee amid a rapidly changing landscape spurred by World War I, the Great Migration, and the emergence of the New Negro Movement.  Dr. Moton led Tuskegee to a multi million-dollar endowment, nearly doubled school enrollment, and transitioned Tuskegee from an Institute to a University.


5. William R. Harvey: Hampton University, 1978- present — As one of the most recognizable names in the HBCU community, president Harvey has created a “superpower” of an institution (Ok, maybe one more biased listing but whose counting?).  Although he has garnered a reputation as a “business man,” Harvey’s acumen as an academic innovator is also unparalleled.  Most recently, Harvey has become one of the most influential public advocates for HBCUs.  In 2010, Harvey was appointed Chairman of the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  Earlier this month, Harvey used his influence to pressure Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to act in favor of HBCUs facing increasing financial crises.


Honorable Mention:  Frederick D. Patterson, Benjamin Mays, Mary McLeod Bethune, and James E. Shepard.  

Once again, this list is in no way exhaustive.  It is however, a reflection of HBCU presidents I believe have significantly advanced institutional brands, and contributed to their students’ social, cultural, and economic advancement.  We want to know what your list would look like!