Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been a staple in the Black community since the first college, Cheyney University, was founded in 1837. Across the nations, HBCUs have produced hundreds of thousands of Black professionals like doctors, lawyers, bankers, teachers, actors, directors and more.
HBCUs have been gaining major attention and popularity from big corporations and businesses around the world this year. With the 2020 Vice President-elect Kamala Harris being an HBCU alumna, it’s time for the world to see the true beauty of what HBCUs can produce and why they deserve everything and more.
Prior to the creation of HBCUs, there was no structured higher education system for Black students. HBCUs were created to provide Black people access to education comfortably. The designation of HBCUs was created by the Higher Education Act of 1965. There are over 100 HBCUs located in 21 states. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, academic year 2017-2018, 48,300 degrees were conferred by HBCUs.
HBCUs receive harsh criticism from the outside world, but those familiar with HBCUs know how much greatness they possess. Many students, especially in the south, grew up around HBCUs, whether their family or people in their community attended one.
Maisie Brown is a current freshman at North Carolina A&T University and activist in the Black Lives Matter Mississippi movement. In her hometown of Jackson, MS, Brown dedicates her time to the improvement of Mississippi education and the inequalities in the state. Brown believes that HBCUs have a rich history and it’s up to the younger generation to continue the legacy of our ancestors.
“Me being into history and understanding just how limited education options were for us, like being prohibited from getting an education and how our ancestors built these schools from the ground up made me want to attend,” Brown said. “I wanted to make sure I continued the legacy that so many of my ancestors put their lives on the line for to ensure that kids that look like me can have access to higher education like their white counterparts.”
HBCUs are so often compared to Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs), when it comes to education and social life. Critics of HBCUs believe that HBCUs are “beneath” PWIs because most HBCU institutions aren’t economically advanced as their counterparts. In reality, HBCUs are much more underfunded than PWIs. According to the State University System of Florida, Florida A&M University received $70,550,991 in allocated funds compared to $307,068,937 allocated to neighboring school Florida State University.
Funding plays a huge part in the manner in which a university operates. Government funding goes to things like teacher salary, infrastructure, sporting, etc.
Augustus Mitchell, Assistant Director of Admissions and Enrollment Management, believes that the key to taking advantage of the HBCU trend is to advertise our worth and start demanding what we deserve.
“Real movements and real change require proactivity,” Mitchell says. “Even if it is a trend, we need to leverage our worth. We are the commodity. We are the growing population. We are the need, and companies realize that, so they need to give back.”
FAMU is just one of the many HBCUs ready to commit to the betterment of their university. FAMU has many notable alumni and have been mentioned in many pop culture events such as Beyoncé’s concert film, “Homecoming.” This popularity is ever-growing and the university will continue to use this attention to their benefit.
Carrington Whigham, current Student Body Vice President, believes the university is on an uphill journey as it’s excited for what’s in store.
“People do look at HBCUs’ students and it’s important we represent well,” Whigham says. “This trend is great for us students because we can use this as a network to have these companies invest in our students so we can continue to thrive. It’s only going to get better from here because of our amazing students.”
HBCUs will continue to be great and continue to produce the best and brightest Black scholars in the country.