Continuing recognition of HBCUs

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Many people are finally being made aware of what those matriculating at HBCUs or former attendees of HBCUs already know: ‘HBCUs rock.’    HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) are finally getting the recognition and respect that has long been overdue. Some have questioned the relevancy of HBCUs in past years, alluding that Blacks are now allowed to attend PWIs (Predominately White Institutions), as if they are exclusively better. In all honesty, this is literally a slap in the face to HBCUs and a way of trivializing their significance. Many may arrive at this assumption because of false narratives and a lack of knowledge of the history of HBCUs.

Initially, one must understand that HBCUs came about because Blacks were not allowed to attend many White institutions of higher learning. Eventually these White universities and colleges were given federal mandates to integrate. Federal monies depended on admitting a certain percentage of minorities. Then, and only then, did they make concessions to accommodate—or as some would say, ‘tolerate’ people of color. It was never originally about doing the right thing; it was about being forced and, of course, about the money.

Many of the predominately White universities may have had better name recognition, accommodations and amenities because of preferential treatment by state legislatures and wealthy alumni contributing to the schools. But you cannot say that they were then, or are now, superior to HBCUs academically—unless you buy into the racial bias that anything White is better.    Predominately White universities and colleges have been successful in recruiting Black athletes once they realized these athletes were ‘cash cows’ in making money for the schools in arenas such as basketball and football by displaying their athletic prowess.

You have many Black athletes given scholarships and surreptitious favors by PWIs to attend their programs with the promise of more playing time and exposure to valuable media coverage. This would boost their hopes of eventually becoming professional, i.e., playing in the NFL or NBA. Everyone wins, with high monetary returns for the schools. There are multimillion dollar contracts for the coaches made possible with monies generated by fans, endorsements, and TV. Many Blacks personally feel these athletes are being taken advantaged of or pimped, given that a large number of these athletes in many predominately White schools never actually graduate.

HBCUs can’t compete monetarily when talented Black high school athletes are wooed and swept off their feet by big-named, predominately White universities. Recruiting top Black athletes from high schools has become a prerequisite for achieving winning seasons and winning championship games for many of these PWIs.

The tide is shifting, though, especially with Dion Sanders becoming the head coach of Jackson State University and advocating for Black athletes to make a conscious effort to attend HBCUs. Other noteworthy mentions include: Master P, the hip hop mogul’s son, attending Tennessee State University to play basketball; and Eddie George, the former stellar running back for the Tennessee Titans taking the head coaching job at TSU. These trailblazing actions have helped get the ball rolling in having our top Black athletes consider HBCUs. Many liken the move as to having our boys and girls coming home where they will be loved and appreciated as well as exposed to the HBCU experience—an experience you can’t begin to fathom or comprehend when attending a predominately White university.

But to each his own. Sometimes you must choose to go where you are afforded the best financial deal. But please don’t think a predominately White university is automatically superior to an HBCU. The attendees of HBCUs have made indelible contributions in every field and profession. Their achievements and accomplishments can be noted on local, state, national, and international levels. Their pursuit of excellence has served as a model in making this a better world for everyone.

The government has acknowledged the importance of HBCUs by forming the White House initiative on HBCUs dedicated to helping them provide the highest quality of education to an expanding number of students. They frequently partner with different groups and agencies to increase the capacity and competitiveness of HBCUs. Millions of dollars are allotted yearly to help HBCUs.

The intellect, productivity, competitiveness, and positive self-esteem generated from attendees of HBCUs are second to none. The HBCU experience unapologetically teaches its students to know who they are and to go serve and help build up their communities. But many feel PWIs literally teach you to succeed financially at any cost. HBCUs tend to inspire students to be more humanitarian. They encourage students to embrace unifying and empathetic practices in their quest for professional success. They teach students to give back to the community, and this is an essential objective of most HBCUs. Once again, thanks to those for ‘walking the talk’ in getting the ball rolling by having our Black students and athletes consider or commit to attending an HBCU.

HBCUs rock! Ask United States Vice President Kamala Harris who attended Howard University, considered one of our premier HBCUs.

Some of the many Black people who attended HBCUs, include:

Tennessee State University

Oprah Winfrey; Wilma Rudolph; Ralph Boston; Glenda Glover; Moses Gun; Dwayne Tucker; Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr.; Thelma Harper; Brenda Gilmore; Harold Ford, Sr.; James Claiborne, Jr.; Richard Dent; Ed Jones; Claude Humphrey; Jim Marsalis; Alvin Williams; Edith McGuire; Joe Gilliam, Jr.; Carla Vinita Thomas; Dr. Maria Thompson; Jesse Russell; Maurice White; Cleveland Eaton; Lloyd Neal; Alvin Williams; Anthony Mason; Carlos Rogers; Rufus Thomas; Carl Rowan; Lloyd W. Newton; and Jimmy Blanton

Howard University

Vice President Kamala Harris; Chadwick Boseman; Taraji Henson; Wendy Raquel Robinson; Anthony Anderson; Sean Combs; Toni Morrison; Thurgood Marshall; Phylicia Rashad; Debbie Allen; Lynn Whitfield; Lance Gross; Elijah Cummings; Ralph Bunche; Roberta Flack; LaLa Anthony; and Ananda Lewis

Morehouse College

Martin Luther King, Jr.; Samuel L. Jackson; Spike Lee; Maynard Jackson; David Satcher; Lerone Bennett, Jr.; Killer Mike; and Polow da Don

Grambling State University

Erykah Badu

Hampton University

DJ Envy; and Wanda Sykes

Fisk University

WEB Du Bois; Nikki Giovanni; Ida B. Wells; Marion Barry; James Weldon Johnson; Judith Jamison; Matthew Knowles; John Lewis; and Kym Whitley

Tuskegee University

Lionel Richie

Florida A&M University

Common; DJ Envy; Anika Noni Rose

Spellman College

Keshia Knight Pulliam; Esther Rolle

Alabama A&M University

Ruben Studdard

Alabama State University

Chainz

Clark Atlanta University

Emmanuel Lewis; Mase

Southern University

Randy Jackson; and David Banner.

North Carolina Central University

Kim Coles

Albany State University

Rick Ross

Shaw University

Gladys Knight

Oakwood University

Brian McKnight

Dillard University

Garrett Morris

Norfolk State University

J.B. Smoove

Bowie State University

Toni Braxton; Towanda Braxton

Texas Southern University

Michael Strahan

North Carolina A&T University

Terrance J

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