- Faith & Family
The over 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities [HBCUs] in the U.S. have undergone significant changes since they first emerged in the 19th century. Some were founded by white philanthropists, free Blacks, states or churches but all had the same mission: to educate the sons and daughters of former slaves. It was there that doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers, ministers and many other future professionals — the “Talented Tenth” — first gained the foothold they needed to succeed.
However, what we often forget is that schools like Morehouse, Tuskegee, Hampton and FAMU were once the only option that Blacks had for achieving a college education. During those dark days when “separate but equal” was the law of the land, it was the stalwart efforts of Black educators, preachers and business men and women that kept the doors of HBCUs open. It was there collective spirit that paved the road of opportunity for hundreds of thousands of eager Black youth.
Since 1954 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education that “separate” was not “equal,” we have seen the steady demise of those hallowed Black halls of higher learning. We have seen Black students lured to predominantly-white colleges and universities where endowment funds allowed those schools to offer the most intellectually astute and the most athletically-inclined of our race “free rides.”
At the same time, HBCUs have found their graduates struggling with dismal student loan default rates, graduation rates that have plummeted and alumni giving donations to their alma maters that are both pitiful and embarrassing.
The recent departure of two college presidents from two of Florida’s HBCUs, Bethune-Cookman University and Florida Memorial University, have simply put an exclamation point on the problems our schools now face.
We can no longer claim that our HBCUs provide a family environment — now while the “parents” that govern those schools are failing to lead by example. It is time to reinvest in our HBCUs with our time, talent and treasure. But we must do so with ideas that are innovative and entrepreneurial, if not revolutionary. If not, like the ostrich with its head buried in the sand, we will one day look and see that Black colleges and universities have gone the way of the dinosaur. They will be extinct. And we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.