John S. Wilson Jr., who served as President of Morehouse College and White House adviser on historically black colleges, said the institutions collectively known as HBCUs need to seize this moment.
“Is this a lasting moment that represents a new era?” Said Dr. Wilson, whose forthcoming book Up From Uncertainty focuses on the future of historically black colleges. “I think this answer could be ‘yes’ for many HBCUs. Unfortunately, I think it will be ‘no’ for some institutions too. “
Most black colleges and universities were founded in the 19th century to train people to be freed from slavery. Some students literally had to build their schools: at Tuskegee University in Alabama, they dug up the clay and shaped and burned the bricks that were used to build their campus.
The schools became centers of learning and intellectualism that produced most of the country’s black doctors, teachers, and judges and alumni such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., filmmaker Spike Lee, writer Toni Morrison, and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, Democratic Senator from Georgia.
The more established colleges have used the new money to build on their legacies. For example, Spelman and Morehouse, both in Atlanta, and Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, have started entrepreneurship programs. And Howard in particular is able to attract talented faculty members who would otherwise have gone elsewhere.
Ms. Hannah-Jones, a New York Times Magazine staffer who won a 2020 Pulitzer Prize for her work on the 1619 project, turned down an offer from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after controversy over whether to get a job would. She chose Howard and brought $ 20 million in donations from the Knight Foundation, Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and an anonymous donor.