In June of 2010, North Carolina Central University, a historically black college (from here will be referenced as HBCU), in honor of the school’s centennial celebration held a symposium on the state of HBCUs. The symposium brought together some of the brightest and most active advocates and scholars of hbcus, including, Dr. Mary Beth Gasman Associate Professor at UPenn, and secretary of education, Arne Duncan, in order to discuss relevant research geared towards solving major concerns surrounding the status of black colleges.
The main questions on the table asked, are hbcus still relevant today? What directions are the schools headed in? And what could be done to increase funding, graduation rates, and overall efficiency in the new era of black colleges. As pressing as these issues are, they have been on the table for quite some time. Many have placed blame for disparities in graduation and retention rates on faulty administration, low admission standards due to a heightened need for funding, while others see a flaw in state allocation procedures, and a host of other reasons. However, little attention has been given to the impact desegregation has had on the role of black colleges after Brown v. Board.
It is important to consider the influence, power, and efficiency black colleges held before 1954. Many forget that it was schools like Howard, Tuskegee, and North Carolina Central that served as hotbeds of intellectual and professional development for African Americans. Imagine walking the campus of Howard University and being able to talk with Carter G. Woodson, walk down the hall and take a philosophy course with Alain Locke, learn about college environments with E. Franklin Frazier, and later take law classes with Thurgood Marshall under the tutelage of Charles Houston. Even at NCCU, students had the opportunity to be surrounded by great minds like Helen G. Edmonds, Earl Thorpe, and others who groomed another generation of prominent scholars like, Carlton Wilson, Freddie Parker, Lydia Lindsey, Sylvia Jacobs, and Percy Murray, who continue to pass on the tradition of developing the best and brightest minds, as many NCCU graduates are currently enrolled in PhD programs across the nation.
So what happened? At what point did graduation and retention rates begin to drop? When did attending hbcus become “just another option?” Rather than asking “Are HBCU’s still relevant,” we need to be asking “Since when did they stop being relevant?” In 1975, a article was published by Marion D. Thorpe entitled, “The Future of Black Colleges and Universities in the Desegregation and Integration Process.” In the article she predicts some possible effects desegregation could have on black colleges and students. It is interesting to reflect back and consider Thorpe’s points.
Here is Thorpe’s article below Check it out!
*** Brian McClure is the author of this post.***