Where are our African American Men…Prison or College?

Recently, I have had the opportunity to gain a first-hand account of how many African American males are in prison. Sadly, I left with the impression that majority of our African American males are incarcerated. However the “Cellblock vs. College” article explains that my outlook may actually be a myth. http://www.howard.edu/schooleducation/Research_Spotlight/RS2.html

Toldson and Morton, authors of this article, report that there are approximately 395,443 more African American males in college than in prison. Interesting? Yes, indeed. This myth that there are more African American males in prison has become so stereotypical that people have actually begun to believe it as factual.

So you must ask yourself, what factual information confirms Toldson and Morton’s notion that there are more African American males in college than prison.

  • In 2010 reports showed that 1,236,443 African American men were enrolled in college versus the 841, 000 serving time.
  • The institutions of higher education where African American males are enrolled in high percentages include: University of Phoenix-Online Campus, Strayer University, Central Texas College, Miami Dade College, University of Maryland – University College, FAMU, N.C. A & T, Troy University (AL), Texas Southern, CUNY New York City College of Technology, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Prairie View A & M (TX), Jackson State (MS), Southern University and A & M College , Morgan State University , Excelsoir College, Columbia College, Morehouse College, Liberty University, Howard University, Saint Leo University, Park University, Webster University, Nova Southeastern University, Hampton University and Harvard University. (HBCUs are highlighted)
  • In 2009 African American males represent 40% of the total male population incarcerated compared to 45% in 2000.
  • U. S. Census reports there’s approximately 17,945,068 African American males
  • 6.3 % of African American male are in college
  • 4.7% of African American males are in prison

Now that you’ve seen these figures, are you encouraged to concede the myth  that there are more African American males in prison than college? If so, how would you do that? Will you encourage an African American male or yourself (if you are an African American male) to attend and complete college and continue to challenge these numbers? Will you serve as a mentor to a young brother with hopes of obtaining a higher education but has no support? Or will you help our African American brothers in prison obtain the resources needed once they’ve completed their time to obtain an education?

I believe Oprah Winfrey said it best in her donation to the Men of Morehouse… “When you empower a black man, you light up the world. When you empower a black man, you empower families. You empower his wife. You empower sons. You empower daughters … You light up the world.”

Who will you empower?


18 thoughts on “Where are our African American Men…Prison or College?

  1. Tracae, you already know that you rock in my book, but thanks so much for sharing this. Promise, I’m getting this out to everybody I know, ASAP! Keep inspiring and empowering, one message, one mind, one word at a time! AGAPE!

    • Thanks so much for the support and more importantly sharing it with others. It is so important for us to make sure we’re are providing our African American males with a just account and more importantly with accurate research to back up our claims.

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  3. I am a black male, currently attending Argosy University in Washington, DC. My major is in business management. Once I complete my bachelors degree, I will continue my education by pursuing my masters and I look forward to owning my own business some day. Why did I mention this? Because I was empowered and inspired by individuals dearest to me who wanted nothing more than to see me become successful in this life. Empowering and inspiring a young mind to achieve greatness puts him or her on the right path to self actualization. Empowering and inspiring the black male is the responsibility of family, community and society. It hurts to see our young black males locked away because of the decisions they make in life that takes away the opportunities to achieve success. But who do we blame for this? That is another discussion.

    I look at these numbers and I’m astounded that there are more black males enrolled in college than incarcerated. If in fact that these numbers are true, in which I am not condoning the research, in my opinion, will not quiet the stereotypical notion. Here are some questions that some may ask about this research.
    1. What type of research was conducted to gather this information?
    2. Was this information gathered over time, by whom, and what measuring tools where used to help support this research?
    3. Were some information just gathered from random webistes other than the Census Bureau?
    4. Was the researcher allowed to gathered information from reliable sources such as prisons within the United States to comfirm the accuracy of data?
    5. Where there any extraneous variables involved?

    Another thing I find interesting is, if the U.S. Census is reporting over 17 million black males in the U.S., in which will include all age groups, there is a huge gap bewteen the number of black males in the U.S. and the number that is enrolled into college. The 2010 census report show that 1,236,443 African American men were enrolled in college, and 841,000 African American men are serving time. If you total these two numbers together you get 2,077,443. Huge gap between 17 million and this total number. The question I have to ask is, how did Toldson and Morton come up with 395,443? Well they subtract 841,000 from 1,236,443 and you get 395,443. But you can not subtract these two numbers. It is like saying that 841,000 of black males from the 1,236,443 went to jail after college. So in my eyes these numbers are not legit.

    I, like any other individual reading this, hope that these numbers are proven without a doubt and backed with concrete research. In my opinion I find there may be some bias here which may prove this research irrelevant, however I have not looked or read the research conducted but if you look at the findings posted, it is obvious that the numbers are not consistent with each other.

    In conclusion, we as parents and role models need to continue to empower and inspire our youth so that each generation after may continue to make this world a better place. We must continue to establish a foundation where our youth can stand so that they will know that there is a promising future for them and for their children, and their children’s children. With this empowerment and inspiring power we have, we can quiet the stererotypes, release the veil of scrutiny, and light up this world even brighter than before.

    Patrick Covington

    • Patrick,

      First thank you for taking the time to read the article, I hope it was well worth the time and has contributed towards your quest for higher learning and critical thinking. I think you raise many valid and pressing questions, that I hope many readers will also pick up on.

      Although the research in my estimation serves as somewhat of a launching pad for this very important discussion, I believe the authors (Toldson and Morton) are attempting to create conversation and begin the process of reconceptualizing stereotypical and sometimes antiquated misconceptions about African Americans. These numbers, although a sample and something of a anachronistic analysis, forces us to think carefully about blurting out “there are more african americans in jail than are in college.”

      It is true that there research has been embellished to relay a certain point, however, the numbers it will be up to scholars like you and I to add that concrete evidence and quantitative analysis to substantiate these claims. It is important that as African American males (and females) we begin to empower each other with positive affirmation. So often we see negative after negative report that tells us we will not amount to anything. Although, I do question the final findings (at this point) I think the overall message of the article should be given careful consideration. In the meantime, we all still have alot of work to do to combat misconceptions and to oversee Racial uplift

      Thanks for your comments

    • Thank you Patrick, for both your passion and support. Most importantly, I am so appreciative of your inquisitiveness about this study. We both share some of the same questions in regards to where the data was collected, over what period of time and if there were extraneous variables involved.

      However, some of the questions that you do pose were answered in Toldson and Morton’s article (see the link at the top of this post). The 17,945,068 African American male population reported by the U.S. Census not only included college students and prisoners. Toldson and Morton explain that this amount is inclusive of African American males out of college, out of prison and those too young for either populations addressed in this article.

      Also by looking at the references Toldson and Morton included (at the bottom of the article) I would assume a quantitative methodology was used to answer their research question.

      Like Brian stated earlier, the overarching purpose of their study and this article is to empower African American males to continue obtaining post-secondary education. But, like you, I am a stickler for the research question, methods, analyses used in a project. Especially one that’s so unconventional as this. Below is Toldson contact information, if you’d like to further investigate those questions you’ve posed.

      Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D. is a senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, associate professor at Howard University School of Education, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Negro Education. Direct any correspondence to itoldson@cbcfinc.org.

      Thanks you again for sharing.

      • Thanks Pat, for taking time to check it out and posting your comment! You are dynamic brother! I wish you all the best in all your future endeavors. You, too, are the difference! (P.S. Patrick is a high school classmate of mine! :o) )

      • These are the references used.

        Beck, A. J. (2000). Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 1999. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. – for comparison.

        Knapp, L. G., Kelly-Reid, J. E., & Ginder, S. A. (2010). Postsecondary Institutions and Price of Attendance in the United States: Fall 2009 and Degrees and Other Awards Conferred: 2008-09, and 12-Month Enrollment 2008-09. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. – I got the original files from the Department of Education with current enrollment of African American Males.

        U.S. Census Bureau. (2011). 2005-2009 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. – For population estimate of all Black Males

        West, H. C. (2010). Prison Inmates at Midyear 2009–Statistical Tables. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. – The authority on current prison population figures.

        Ziedenberg, J., & Schiraldi, V. (2002). Cellblocks or Classrooms?: The Funding of Higher Education and Corrections and Its Impact on African American Men. Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute. – The original source that claimed more Black men in jail than in college. No other research has found the same conclusion since.

  4. THank you for the empowering article…extremely encouraging when all you hear are the disparities in our community….we have to research for ourselves and not believe every report any old body puts out…Read and research for ourselves and yes mentoring is so important!! It takes a village!

    • Thanks Cloudy, for coming through and leaving your words of encouragement and reflection! You are making the difference through yourself and your children! ❤ you!

  5. Here you go Tracae, I will make sure I post here on the blog.

    We can help curb this problem by helping children in our foster care and adoption system. In a survay by National Association of social Workers found that approximately 80% of prisoners were in foster care system at one time. We could cha…nge the outlook of men in prison by providing love, attention, and education in GOOD foster homes. Also, providing these kids with educated mentors to help them get life skills. If we can get to these kids early, the impact could be HUGE in regards to the quesition you asked.
    Also, we need to encourage our family and friends to foster/adopt. If they can’t do one of those, become a mentor of a child in foster care/adoption (or children your neighborhoods who need guidance). I will get off my soap box now. LOL Good topic you two, love ya!

    • Thanks again Marcus. I really want to look into to more studies about foster students (especially African Americans) completing Higher Education. We have a lot of work cut out for us and I believe that what you are doing is going to make all the difference.

      Thank you!

  6. I am a black male who attend college at Keiser University and when I first arrived i had to contend with racism and stereotypes. I up to be a proper child by both of my parents. Both of my parents went through school as honor students. My father always doted his I”s and crossed his T”s whenever he spoke. My father was also bi-lingual. My father father was a multi-millionaire and my mother father was very wealthy. My father’s parent arrived here from the Bahama Islands poor and they both made the best of it. They both wanted and embrassed the American dream for they wanted the best for their children. My mother is father was a product of interracial marriage for his mother was Native American( Cherrokee Indian) and his father was white. His father ancestors were from Norway if I’m not mistaken. My mother father earned his wealth just as my father’s father. They both obtained most of their wealth through real-estate. My father father said to me when I was 6 years old, he Billy don’t grow up looking for people to give you everything but look for a way tro earn it. He told me that he came to this country broke and noticed that many of the African American people who hated him had been here all of their lives but yet they had accomplished very little. He made very clear to be not to become as one of them, lazy, envious and jealous of others accomplishments but to make things happen for myself.

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