ChickenBones: A Journal

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We need courses in Ethics, not just for the poor, but for all classes and all institutions.

Most black  colleges now promote anti-union activity and low wages. Our civil rights

revolution was external, against whites and white institutions. There was a lot

of work left undone. Who recalls today MLK's problems with the National Baptists?

Many of these Black leaders were against MLK and MLK tactics.



 Reactions to Administrative Responses to Student Protests

A Conversation with Miriam, Joyce, Jeannette, Wilson, Brian, Kam, Herbert, Jerry, Charles


The State of HBCUs for Black Students & Faculty

Fisk Selling Georgia O'Keeffe's Radiator Building to Meet Financial Woes



Self-Segregation, Protest, & Financial Woes 

Miriam: Floyd,  since the Hampton matter came up, I have received so many messages from friends documenting their treatment at HCBUs or incidences that they know of personally.  Certainly someone needs to write an article about the problems:  the hubris of presidents, the accommodationist handling of race relations, and the oppression of faculty and students.

It has to be a balanced essay, however, because Whites love for us to castigate our own institutions, and, more important, our Black colleges and universities have made significant contributions to our culture under really adverse conditions.  So many of my close friends, scholars mostly, have asked me "Why did you send your son and daughter and now one of your grandsons to historically-Black colleges?  Those colleges are racist and discriminatory?"  Another expressed surprise that my grandson is at Morehouse:  "Why would he go there when he can get into any college in the country?"

I know that Howard had/has problems, but of all the places that I've worked it's the one that fed my mind and spirit with the beauty and depth of Black culture.  It was there that I met Haki, John Killens, Steve Henderson, Ethelbert, Léon Damas, Sylvia Winters, Lemuel Johnson, Manuel Zapata Olivella, Dorothy Porter, Adalberto Ortiz, Andy Billingsley, and so many other creative and brilliant artists and scholars, who had a tremendous impact on my life.  It was there that my interest in Afro-Hispanic literature and my commitment to Black Studies were nurtured.

As a department chair, however, I was also the target of machismo and administrative arrogance, but I fought tooth and nail against the oppression.

Rudy: I am not at all surprised by the attitudes of some black administrators and black faculty in black institutions. What has been described about Hampton has been the state of being of such institutions before I attended in 1965 Morgan State College, which I have never been able to tolerate, either as an undergraduate or graduate student.

Here is a personal example. The last time I was at Morgan I had a class in 1990 with Homer Favor, a well-known Black Baltimore educator, who was retired then (he was there also when I was an undergraduate) but he was teaching then in the graduate Education department. He passed back no papers including the final. When asked to see the papers graded, he told me matter-of-factly I should be satisfied with a "B." I told the chair, the grad school about the situation. Their response was forget it.  I have other horror stories.

One does not ask questions at black schools, one takes notes and regurgitate. The teachers tell you what to think. And the administrators tell you how to behave. If I had been limited to Morgan State College, I would not have a degree. It was only at College Park that I became a successful student. 

If one wants to know how a slave plantation was run, one needs only go to a black school, any black school. In Baltimore, the principals are power hungry and horrid. There is no balance whatsoever in how they operate and they should not be given any quarter for their undermining of relevant black education. Clearly, they see their primary task to prepare black students to be obedient workers, servants, and supporters of the status quo.

Seven times out of ten I'd choose and recommend a white professor over a black one. Not so much that the white one is better than the black. I know the white professor will continue to be white, but usually he’s tolerant of other views, and there're laws; the black is usually at a place he does not want to be, and usually intolerant and punitive of views other than his own; and there're no laws to restrict him—he's black. This may sound racist but I allow exceptions. But that is my collegiate experience.

Joyce: Rudy and Miriam, I second Rudy's emotion—having served in the administration at two Black colleges, I have my own record of disappointments. Nonetheless, I value those cultural connections that make these institutions worth saving.  My son graduated from Morehouse. My daughter did a year and a semester at Spelman. The "good, the bad and the ugly"—but that's education in general—no matter where.

A book I would recommend is William Watkins, THE WHITE ARCHITECTS OF BLACK EDUCATION, which puts what goes on in these schools in the context of where the power actually lies.  Also, for an insider faculty perspective, check out UNCLE TOM'S CAMPUS, out of print, most likely, and written by a white woman professor in the spirit of "Tell the truth and shame the devil". It's an embarrassing but I'd say pretty real. I'm not sure that writing an article would do much. One only has to see Spike Lee's School Daze to get the picture.

I was really prompted to write to say that Sylvia Wynter is one of my closest academic partners and a good friend. Please see her work in our book, Black Education. I condensed an 8-hour interview with her to a short cameo presentation in a documentary film. The transcript and another concise statement of her theoretical work is included in the appendices in our book. You can get the film at A Charge to Keep.

Miriam: Rudy, yours is just one of many sad, sad testimonies that I've received from alum and faculty members at Black institutions.  I find the same thing to be true of the Black church, which is one of the reasons that I remain unchurched.  Most of the ministers I've met are arrogant and pompous little would-be kings who rule over their fiefdoms like tyrants.  When I was teaching at a Baptist junior college, the ministers had a house diagonally across the street where they would take the young female students during the day. 

One time I was one of several speakers at a church's Black History Month program. The males were seated on the dais around the pulpit, but the women who preceded me went to the front of the church—not the pulpit—to speak.  Well, when it was my turn, I marched right up to the pulpit and gave my talk about Black Memphis women pioneers, including the pastors of a couple of churches.  I could hear the men muttering behind me.  Well, I swore then and there that I would never speak in a Black church again, and I haven't.  I was furious;  came home and spilled my rage onto the pages of my journal.  What is wrong with our people? 

Rudy: Our people await example. The problem is that the leaders at all levels of society hate black people and if they do not hate them, they despise them, and if not that, they have no respect for their dignity. They find black people useful; but they have no love for them. Power is in short supply and when one has it, one uses it first and foremost in one's own interests, usually personal interests.

And then there is the dynamic of white power making use of blacks they place in leadership positions to keep the natives (employees; students) in order, or give the impression that they are for blacks and black interests. These useful blacks (tokens) operate at the whim of others and fear being replaced. 

One understands it, appreciates it. In the black communities, it is not so much that power corrupts, but rather it is money that corrupts.  And too often, absolutely. You know what 50 Cent says, "Get rich or die trying." Money is more important than life. We all can relate to a person protecting his power, his job, his advantages. It will not change, not in my lifetime, unless those who enjoy the proceeds of such institutions demand more from these black leaders and institutions. One must take chances or settle for that which is safe.

We need courses in Ethics, not just for the poor, but for all classes and all institutions. Most black  colleges now promote anti-union activity and low wages. Our civil rights revolution was external, against whites and white institutions. There was a lot of work left undone. Who recalls today MLK's problems with the National Baptists? Many of these Black leaders were against MLK and MLK tactics. And that was just as true of black college presidents and institutions, many of which are continually under review by state legislatures or boards of trustees controlled by persons from the status quo.

Of course, now everyone is in love with MLK, especially some who would have pulled the trigger, then, if they thought they could get away with it.

Black people need an internal ethic. On the whole, we follow the lead of others. Usually, those people who revolt against such "black arrogance" are those with the least amount of power—lower-end workers, students, and street people—and usually they are squashed, fired or incarcerated. Those who remain continue the pattern or "going along to get along." Well, that is today's ethic, everywhere. And if you want to hold onto what you got, secure it, then, as everyone knows, you keep your mouth closed and do what you are told, or do what is expected, whatever.

Miriam: Rudy, a lot of what you cite as problems are the legacy of slavery:  oppression of the underclass, divide and conquer (house slaves vs. field hands and vice versa), creation of a hierarchy based on the percentage of White blood, maintenance of order through violence, and the privileging of all things European and the denigration of all things African.  We also see the same phenomena at work in Africa, where colonialism has had devastating results.   

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Ethics & Costs

Jeannette: Yes. The internal ethic that black people need is "Love" and "Love" is the hardest of all. At the core of our existence on these shores is self-hatred and self-denigration; a lingering internalized belief, by too many, that we are inferior creatures of God. "Love" is too simple and too complex.     Instead of learning to love ourselves so that we can love our neighbors (and give up abusing), we copycat/settle for satisfying ego . . . instant gratification, sex, money, greed. The "Self" that knows how to love is non-existent.     

Maybe learning to love ourselves (individually and corporately) requires Sacrifice and Sacrifice seems to me a forgotten concept in these bling-bling days. Yes. Love and sacrifice. Too simple. Too complex.

Rudy: There was something indeed that happened that was different after the civil rights movement and the black consciousness movement. Legal segregation was ended.  The rationale for black institutions was then questioned by whites who wanted a consistency. Administrators at black institutions then had to justify their existence. HBCUs argued they had a special mission to serve black students because these students could not get that "special" education that blacks needed to adjust to white society and that could not be obtained at white institutions.

The education community changed. The scenario is different than before. 1) The best teachers and professors could go where they were best appreciated and this was usually not at black institutions. And they went. 2) The mission and supervision of black schools changed. Many black teachers and professors no longer looked inward  to serve race or peoplehood. Running a dual system is costly and that became an issue. Liberal arts do not pay dividends and so administrators emphasized other programs. 

3) Wages for black administrators and teachers changed, which allowed them to alienate themselves from the masses. 4) More emphasis is placed on middle-class issues than poor working class issues, like minimum wage and a living wage. 5) As far as churches, the measure of faith has became the size and luxury of the facility. My family church (rural), which has maybe a 100 members, has decided to rebuild for a half million dollars. Their grandchildren will have to pay for it.

In Maryland UMCP put up a plan to integrate all the state schools. Morgan State  would be made the Liberal Arts Division; Coppin State, the School of Education. The black administrators, especially Morgan State in Baltimore, were outraged. They argued that they had a special mission. Of course, they were arguing for their own jobs, too. Their "special" role, as the managers of negro life. They created an Urban Institute. Expanded the Business department. Talked the state into creating an engineering school at Morgan. A new theater to invite artistic celebrities. Have any of these new programs and monies made the school overall better. Maybe.

But only a couple of years ago students protested against the horrific state of their library and the underfunding for its archives, books, and staff. The next item on the agenda is the building of a university hotel to train blacks to work in the tourist industry, while at the same time engaged in anti-union activity that will decrease the wages and benefits of its employees. During all these improvements at Morgan State, in Baltimore, the state of black workers and their children and their communities have declined economically and educationally.

In Baltimore, we have a New Orleans in the making.

I am not a fan of state-controlled HBCUs. I suspect that in many instances those institutions and their students would be better off if they were integrated into the larger state system. At this stage of development they are illusionary as agents of progressive changes within the black communities. I do not understand a dual system of education and I cannot think of any justification for its existence if we are to make one America.  

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A Need for "Principled Criticism"

Sandra: I totally disagree with Rudy.  Faculty at HBCUs have historically been excellent!  There are exceptions, but those generally occur because the people at the top are afraid to let people like he described go, for various reasons and faculty also tend to protect each other. Particularly black faculty, because they knew that many did not have adequate retirement plans and they were loyal to their former teachers, and many other reasons.  

But the administration should have had valid performance evaluations in place so that Rudy's experience could have been documented and hopefully would have led to a course of action supportive of both the student and the faculty member.  We have never thought about other roles senior faculty can play when they are no longer effective in the class room (but this would take leadership concerned with something other than their salary or building an empire).

However, HBCU presidents have been a disgrace.  When I return I would like to get together with Floyd and we should put something together a paper on HBCU presidents.

Jerry: Dear Miriam, I especially liked your remark about how whites delight in our castigating HBCUs.  Principled criticism of all institutions is necessary, because we must not yield our right to speaks out against repression.

Miriam: I like what Jerry says about "principled criticism."  You may be interested in the notes & his comments, re:  the reopening of Dillard.  Everyone seems hopeful

Kam: I agree with you both. I see organized religion as a form of obsessive compulsive disorder. As for blacks and Christianity, it's hard for me to see why anyone would embrace a religion which was force fed us as  rationale for slavery which the slavemaster has never believed in. In one generation, we've degenerated from civil rights to gangsta rap via the decapitation of black culture thru the elimination of black people of intellect and integrity from positions of power. Blacks occupy corporate jobs only so long as they kiss ass. Blacks who insist on respect and don't worry about being liked, don't last.

I have tried on several occasions to get positions which whites gave to ministers over me. why? for several reasons. 1- The ministers are more interested in being harmonious than effective, 2- they know nothing of the law, 3- whites know black people are dumb enough to prefer a minister to a lawyer in a legal position.

For instance, one job was as the head of Princeton's Human Rights Commission, a watchdog organization to handle complaints about employment, housing and school discrimination. A brother who was a lawyer had just been fired essentially for trying to do his job. He encouraged me to apply to replace him. But they hired a black minister from Trenton, not Princeton. In fact, he used to live and preach in Princeton but had to leave town because of sleeping with sisters in his congregation.

I could go on and on, but the America power structure wants no part of any black people like us who have no patience for nonsense.

Wilson: Rudy, I have never taught in a black institution, nor have I ever attended one, so I cannot offer much anecdotal evidence.  Early in my career,  however, while working on my Ph. D., I did meet Rayford Logan, and he was very stimulating to know. I also met Dorothy Porter, while working at Moorland-Spingarn, and I found her exceedingly gracious and supportive.  I met Otey M. Scruggs, while he was the only black man in the Syracuse history department, and he helped me with my dissertation immensely, although I was not his student. I took two sociology courses with black instructors at Wayne State. 

One was in a gigantic lecture course, which I attended only twice, and I still got a C.  The other was in a smaller course, where I made a minimal effort and was somewhat obnoxious, but Mary Queely nonetheless gave me a C.  The only black scholar with whom I had a formal connection at Brown University was Charles H. Nichols, who was on my dissertation committee.  He was a stabilizing influence, who raised many intelligent questions and treated me with fairness, objectivity, and kindness. 

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Where Are the Best Black Minds?

Rudy: I asked a friend would he agree that the best black minds are in white institutions. He agreed. That is not to say that there are not excellent and well-trained teachers in black schools. But, of course, black schools are not welcoming for the best black professors. They are an administrative nightmare. I understand that Skip Gates interviewed for a position at Howard University. Of course, he did not get the position.

I am not sure that black schools are the best place for black teachers, or students. First, the overall level of dissatisfaction is higher at black schools. Professors have more opportunities to become published scholars at white schools. My understanding is that black teachers at black colleges teach usually four or five courses with other duties and responsibilities. Can scholarship exist under certain conditions? Possibly, but the road is rockier. If you do not publish then you do not get promotion, which provides security and a higher salary.

I know of one particular case in which the tenured professor at a black school was up for promotion and that she was turned down because her books (excellent in their own right) were not published by a leading publisher, but by her husband. We must allow there are more opportunities for big-named publishers at white institutions.

At a CLA conference, several years ago, young black professors from small southern black schools argued that they were carrying the burden of the race while their black colleagues at white institutions received all the advantages. Of course, a few of the black professors at white institutions were offended. In another instance, I recall the temporary chair of the Education Dept at Morgan was frustrated because her public school teacher-doctoral  students made more money than she and she had a Ph.D. for some twenty years from a university like Brown or Cornell. I know another young black professor who taught at Coppin; he was pleased to leave there for LSU.

I do not mean to say that there are not dedicated and competent and ingenious persons at black colleges and universities. There are. My mentor and friend Dr. Max Wilson had a master's from Yale and a doctorate from the University of Berlin in Philosophy, specializing in philosophy of science. He spoke French, Spanish, German, some Italian and knew Latin and Greek. He came to Morgan as a full professor in 1967, a year before I left. He later in 1980 assumed Locke's chair at Howard University. He was the greatest teacher I ever had and, in some sense, he saved me.

Though such professors are rarer since the 70s, I suspect that there are others like him at black institutions, that are overall provincial and insular. Other than greater socialization with other blacks, I am very uncertain of the advantages of black schools or even black teachers and professors. It is all individual. Wilson encouraged me to go to UMCP.

The historian John Hope Franklin says that it was a white historian at Fisk that was responsible for his being able to go to Harvard. That this white professor took money out of his pocket to make sure that he reached Harvard. Franklin also pointed out two other interesting items in an interview: 1) he has taught more white students than black; 2) and that he learned from his students more than they know. This last point was startling. I wonder how many black professors at black colleges would express the same sentiment about their black students.

In any event the administrative overreaction to recent protests at Howard and Hampton, two premier private black schools, reminds me of the same attitudes that existed at Orangeburg State in South Carolina, where students were murdered by the cops because of the incompetence of black administrators to handle campus protest. If this war in Iraq continues, I suspect that student protests will escalate. What then?

Jerry: Dear Rudy, I am not certain on what scale one measures "the best black minds," but I can assure you that some of the most intelligent black women and men I know are not teaching at HWCUs.  Having vowed to teach at black colleges—although I have taught very briefly at the University of Virginia, Grinnell, and Wayne State and lectured at a number of white colleges, I do not berate my former students who have Ph.D.s for their decision to make their careers at schools that are well-endowed, equipped with up-to-date research materials in their specialties, and often more concerned with productive scholarship than with the quality of one's teaching. 

Until HBCUs as we know them vanish at some point in the late twenty-first century, it is necessary that some of us who have good minds, good preparation in our disciplines, and a sense of historic responsibility offer students at black colleges the challenge of high academic standards. Otherwise, they will not be prepared for the challenges of graduate studies or the demands of professional schools.  I do know from bitter experience that a number of non-black teachers at HBCUs do not teach well, and I do not bite my tongue when I inform some of them that they are doing a disservice to black students.

I agree with much that you have written about the pettiness that exists among many administrators at HBCUs, but I must disagree with a blanket condemnation of the black professors who chose not to teach at HWCUs.

Rudy: I agree no blanket condemnation should be made about the competence and dedication of black professors at black institutions. I knew too, from others, that you could have obtained a permanent position at a HWCU, but rather chose to remain at a black college in Mississippi and then in New Orleans. Knowing that fact endeared me to you. I admire you for your dedication and commitment to black life and culture. You are special. And I admire such sacrifices. My mentor Max Wilson chose the same path.

But for the life of me I do not know how anyone sustains the argument, today, that black students are best served at under-funded black state colleges and universities when there are "schools that are well-endowed, equipped with up-to-date research materials."  I thought that the one of the key racial problems that the NAACP and the civil rights movement was trying to resolve was the unequal treatment of black students and black teachers and professors, that the NAACP tried to obtain the best for all students and teachers. We know this is not happening at black state colleges where resources for teachers and students are at a premium..

Lance Jeffers' daughter who teaches at a small black southern college spoke at a CLA conference on the dilemma of black professors at black colleges: at black colleges quality teaching  does not rank very high when it comes to promotion; they still require scholarship and publications. Maybe it was/is different at Tougaloo and Dillard; if they have that kind of respect for black students and professors, they should be applauded for their good sense.

I do not quite understand the view that black students are not well-served at HWCUs, like UMCP. I beg to differ. I had Lewis Lawson for Southern literature, Donna Hamilton for Shakespeare, Eugene Hammond for writing, and others who were excellent at teaching as well as scholarship. They went out of their way to help me. But that was the English department. Library school at UMCP, I felt like a foreigner, worst than, when it came to some white teachers. But that situation probably had more to do with me being a black male, in a white feminized profession. But overall that was rare.

On the whole, I can think of at least three white professors in library school who were quite excellent in their teaching. One is responsible for helping me develop the skills for web publishing. UMCP had an excellent computer lab. ChickenBones would not have existed otherwise. Another directed me to the National Archives to research that filled in on Marcus Christian and materials sent to Sterling Brown when he was Director of Negro Affairs for the Federal Writers Program; all of which led me to the archives at Howard for research in an unprocessed collection, which allowed me to pulled together An Archival Search for Sterling Brown. I found my professor for Library Administration also quite excellent, though most of the black students in the class did not care for him. And that was because his lectures required considerable note taking.

UMCP's graduate library had an excellent collection of works about and by blacks that was not  available at any black college or university library in Maryland, including Morgan State, which still in 2005 has an inadequate library for undergraduates and graduate students. The administrators prefer hotels to well-equipped research facilities.

Maybe state-supported black colleges will vanish. I doubt it. Black administrators and other black politicians have a vested interest in maintaining segregated colleges and universities. Howard, Hampton, Spelman, Morehouse, Xavier, and such private black schools, I suspect they will be forever. As I understand it they are well-endowed and probably have a greater rationale for existence than the state black schools. 

Most black colleges are much like the segregated schools prior to the Brown decision, which stated that state segregated schools are inherently unequal, that is, inferior. That is still true in a society that undervalues black students at black institutions. If we are to become one America, this problem of separate state educational institutions need to be resolved, and resolved in favor of black students.

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Young Professor's Commitment to HBC

Brian: Rudy, I want to chime in on this particular subject because I’ve just accepted an Associate level position to teach at a Historically Black University starting in January. Let me first say that I’m a product of a historically black university in Charlotte, North Carolina, Johnson C. Smith University, and many of the criticisms that have been made about some black universities are sadly accurate. (In fact, when I was senior during the fall of 1994, I and my classmates leveled very serious critiques against the institution after having spent time at strong undergraduate research programs where our academic experiences were wanting in comparison with our peers who attended HWCUs.)

Also, please know that my decision to go to a black university was by no means driven by my inability to land a tenure-track appointment at a HWCU. In fact, it was very much the opposite. (In the final analysis, securing a tenure-track is not difficult but tenure is the issue, which I’m certain about my potential to secure at whatever institution I’m situated within.) Moreover, I suspect that many vocational decisions are made not simply according to the positions themselves but other very important areas that were once very much central to African American communal life: job, family, finances, church, community involvement, proximity to relations etc.

For all of these came to bear upon my decision to go to a HBCU quite profoundly. Yet, more to the point Jerry Ward makes, I’ve decided upon the institution I’m in-route to because I’m excited about what the institution is slowly but surely becoming. They’ve raised admissions standards. They’ve recruited quality and solid young professors with degrees from fine institutions and are interested in publication. They have been professional from A to Z in their handling of this transition.

Finally, the salary is competitive. Yet more to Jerry’s point, how do we measure “the best black minds” if it is indeed possible to do? Throughout my very brief academic career (having secured the Ph.D. in 2003 and having received the B.A in 1995 and M.A. in 1998) I’ve been a member of the Mellon-May Undergraduate and Postgraduate Research Program. And this program consistently touts those minorities that attend undergraduate Ivy-league institutions or upper-tier institutions like Duke, Chicago, and Berkeley who also go on to similar institutions for their doctoral training.

Yet, for all of this touting, many of these (my peers) have not produced strong scholarship and what research many of them are pursuing bears no organic relationship to the African American community in any substantive way. For the most part it is not historically-rooted and retreats to much of the senseless “theoretical babbling” that characterizes academia in large part at HWCU. (I’m think particularly of literary studies.) Look at the intellectual stalwarts of the African American scholarly tradition like Nathan Hare, Dolan Hubbard, Haki Madhudbuti who taught or teach at HBCUs although (to be sure) a great many like a Wilson Moses are at HWCUs.

Finally consider Du Bois, George Washington Carver, and Carter G. Woodson. Du Bois always desired to be at a HWCU and never received an invitation. Carver did not wish to leave Tuskegee but received many invitations from HWCUs to do so. Carter G. Woodson took great pride in being at Howard and repeatedly refused Du Bois’s entreaties to work together and/or pursue appointments at HWCUs. And for the most part (though we all recognize Du Bois’s great contributions to the African American community) Carver and Woodson contributed equally as much—if not more. Their research and scholarship was no “fluff,” spinning flat analyses from podiums throughout the nation. Their work was grounded in history and science. It was thorough and it was organically linked to the African American community.

And when I consider the many strong professors who have traversed through HBCUs, I identify myself with these. So who are the “best black minds”? Let me just say, let a man or woman be fruitful and let these fruits be inspected for their worth to wider academy and more particularly for the way in which it comes to bear upon the African American community. “For if a man plants himself indomitably upon his own instincts, eventually the whole world will come round to him” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Tiger: Rudy, This discussion is what we ought to be doing!  This young man has made several cogent points to which I can identify.  Although he's much younger than my own children, they share very similar views.  I have my own experiences which I will share at some point in the future.  These views date back to 1958 when I was selected to participate in one of those post-sputnik math/science programs for distinguished high school students. 

However, my experience indicate that while the white schools had the equipment and resources, the teachers at the black schools were far ahead of their contemporaries in providing a quality education to their students.  Now, as I return to academia (six years ago), I find that the HBCUs are not the same HBCUs I knew during my collegiate years.  Therein lies the discussion, which must take place if we're ever going to compete in this global world.

Rudy: Tiger, you were in an African history class I took at Morgan. Maybe it was 1967 or early 1968, just before I dropped out to join the revolution. I do not know whether you recall an incident that occurred. The professor made a distinction between Stanley and Livingston. Stanley did not respect Africans; Livingston did. I had an objection to such simplicity. Thus I asked the question: If Livingston respected Africans and their culture, why did he try to Christianize them? 

The good professor snapped, said "Don't bring that Black Power junk in here."  He went on to declare his qualifications for making his argument: his study, his travels, articles written, etc. I was about 19 and I had never had a person, parent or teacher, to speak to me so harshly for asking a question, reasonable or otherwise. I was hurt. Not one of my classmates said a word. In that we were both campus militants and you an orator and both in the Society of African American Students, I expected you would come to my defense. Maybe you were more politik than I, though a militant. I said nothing to you about the incident until now, almost forty years later.

As I recall I dropped that class. This is only just once incident that soured me on the liberality of Morgan and "black colleges." There are numerous other such incidents all the way up to 1991. I still hate Thomas Cripps, who filled in for Benjamin Quarles. Cripps took us to UMCP, maybe this was the fall of 1967, before Stokely came to campus, to see Birth of a Nation.

I had never seen such garbage in my life and all Cripps could talk about was the technical mastery and inventions of the filmmaker. He had nothing to say of the racial mockery of the film. As a white professor, I expected this fellow would disassociate himself scholarly from such racism. Cripps later published and became an authority on blacks in film. I've  concluded that his scholarly accomplishment was won at the expense of the sensibilities of such black students as myself.   

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Mirian Writing a Balanced Response

Miriam: Rudy, as usual you're quite the provocateur, challenging traditional, "mainstream" Black thinking.  You have your experiences with Black institutions, which color your thinking;  I have mine;  and each of us generalizes on the basis of those experiences.  I have attended and taught at both historically Black and predominantly-White colleges, so I know in which our students are better served and it isn't in UMCP or UMBC.  You are going to force me to write a piece on HBCUs that will be a personal narrative (because I can only write from my perspective) based on the time I've served in some of these institutions. 

Having grown up on Black college campuses where my parents taught for years and having taught at others for almost twenty years, I think that my opinions, pro and con, have some currency.  I believe strongly that there is a role for Black educational institutionswhich, by the way, have been open since their founding to students of all racesjust as there is a place in this country for Brandeis University with its Jewish culture, Brigham Young University with its Mormon leanings, and Loyola University, which is fundamentally Catholic. 

I don't have time now for an extended debate on this issue, but an essay is definitely building in my head, so watch out!   My essay will be a "principled" critique, to quote Jerry.

Herbert: Miriam, I looked forward to reading your essay. I believe it is myopic and at best disingenuous to say that there is no role for black colleges and universities in contemporary American society. The majority of black college graduates continue to graduate in the state of Maryland from historically black colleges and universities. I agree with you, it isn't at College Park or UMBC that our students are best served.

Perhaps, I will reflect later on some of my own personal experiences on this very engaging topic.

Rudy: I look forward to reading your essay. I'm sure you have admirable things to say about black colleges and universities. I'm sure if pressed I could think of some. I hope that your essay accounts also for the many black professors who prefer white institutions instead of black ones. I am quite interested in the details behind the assertion that black students are better served at black institutions and why the same "better" cannot occur at white ones.

I assume you will not apply the same logic for white graduate schools (sources of desired doctorate degrees). That will be really curious. You will also have to account for why some undergraduate black students, and maybe a growing number, prefer the service of white institutions to black ones.

If your rationale has anything to do with lower entrance standards at black schools or drop out rates at white schools, you will still have a problem justifying their existence. Either way you will end up having to deal with blacks lack of ability to compete with white students, which has more to do with the shortcomings of public education in our urban centers usually run by black administrators and the overall racism of American society. It seems that miserable black public schools and under-funded black colleges work hand in glove to justify the other.

Black schools accommodate racism and does little to undermine it, but rather sustain it, to justify their continuance. For by nature institutions (black or white) are conservative and often reactionary, and this is particularly true of black ones. Okay, I'm done. I await your essay.

Kam: I only have anecdotal insights to contribute, but because I attended four different white institutions, I have no way of comparing the experiences.

Charles: Rudy, I can't wait to meet Miriam, this lady is on target. I'll be in the DC area in February speaking at Montgomery College.  This talk will be about New Orleans.  Though I'm not a native, my years in New Orleans working in the area of culture have taught me a lot.

Miriam reminds me, via her writings, of a good friend and mentor, Benjamin Swinson, who lives in D.C. and whom (with his wife, Ruthe Farmer Swinson) live in the DC area. Both are critical thinkers with definite ideas about the state of African America that have enhanced my thinking without causing a lapse into despair.

I think that might have something to do with who fights, how the fights are chosen and what strategies can be used in fights against our seemingly natural enemies and those who have bought the Massa's plan and decided to do the Sambo dance on the rest of us. Your conversations are great.  

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Topic: Fisk Selling Artwork to Meet Financial Woes

Story: Fisk University plans to sell two of the best paintings from its celebrated Stieglitz Collection to raise money for new construction, endowed teaching positions and security enhancements for the remaining 99 works in the 101-piece collection. The two paintings are Georgia O'Keeffe's Radiator Building — Night, New York from 1927, the signature work of the entire collection, and American modernist Marsden Hartley's Painting No. 3, an abstract oil on canvas from 1913.

Leading American art dealers contacted yesterday in New York and Santa Fe, N.M., said the two works together on today's market could sell for $16 million to $20 million.

"This is big news," gallery owner Gerald Peters said from Santa Fe, where the renowned Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is located. He described the O'Keeffe in particular, which depicts a stylized urban landscape at night, as a "truly spectacular picture."

Peters has sold more than 200 works by O'Keeffe. He said no work by the pioneering Wisconsin-born painter, who died in 1986 at age 98, has sold for more than about $6.3 million. But her Radiator Building is different.

"It's the kind of painting that could set a new record price," Peters said. Fisk's Board of Trustees announced the decision to sell the paintings in what the school terms "asset realignment." The move will, for the first time, break up the collection given to Fisk by O'Keeffe herself in 1949 as the Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Modern American and European Art.

— Alan Bostick “Fisk to Sell Celebrated O'Keeffe painting.” Tennessean (12/07/05)

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LaVerne: This is what happens when we don’t contribute to our HBCU Alma Maters and they must take desperate measures Or, can’t think outside the box.  What happened to the Armistad Collection?  Where is it now?  Can you imagine selling the Aaron Douglas murals?

Miriam: The sale of these valuable paintings by Fisk University certainly underscores the financial straits that so many HBCUs are facing right now.  Is that the Hazel O'Leary who headed the Dept. of Energy?  And what happened with Carolyn Reid-Wallace, who was our choice for the presidency of LeMoyne-Owen once upon a time?

Rudy: Miriam, I am not quite sure where the fault lies here — the Administrators & Governing Board or with the Alumni. It seems someone does not think that Fisk, a black school, deserves such a collection and that the collection would be better served elsewhere. Of course, if you sell two to raise money there will always be the temptation to sell another.

As you know, I'm rather uneasy about HBCU administrators. Though I might have a problem with black state schools, I think that private black colleges still have a role to play. Of course, I believe the sale can be stopped by Fiskites.

I do not know whether the black alumni of private black colleges make the kind of money that black athletes of HWCUs. But it seems indeed that the appeal for resources for Fisk has not been vigorous enough. It seems that administrators need a 40-year plan for each HBCU whether these schools are truly sustainable in the long term so that further resources are not wasted.

Clinton: Miriam, the fate of HBCU's is generally showing lower and lower general assets (money) —and less receipts from graduates,—which in an of itself cannot run any college. However the level or percentage of alumni giving is a must have for potential major corporate donors to make a positive contribution. When they ask school officials, they usually already know the answer to this number—so false carding, so to speak will not fly.

Another problem is the necessity to show good business judgment in managing the institution appropriately. Bricks or students is not a hard decision to make for me. Bottom line is every new building carry an on going obligation not to seriously affect the welfare of FUTURE students—same goes for lucrative pay packages for retiring presidents, etc., that some may feel also tend to be a looting of resources that are planned for the good of future student generations.

One day there may come a time when HBCUs are not really needed,—but it is NOT today—or in the foreseeable future—given the mood of this country now.

Fully understand the reaction to these proposals—but O'Leary has the status, ability, drive to turn this lemon from souring. You can be sure of one thing,—she has researched many other options thoroughly, before making the decision. For me, this means that the future is darker than it seems.

Miriam: My cousin, who served as the physician at Spelman College . . . has cited several reasons why HBCUs are having severe financial problems:  the failure of alumni to donate substantially, allocation of money for buildings rather than students, excessive salaries for presidents and other administrators, poor financial management, etc.  I'm sure that we can add other reasons such as inadequate endowments, cutbacks in government aid, funds that cannot go into operations, high tuitions (it now costs $40,000 to go to Morehouse with few scholarships available).  

And now, given the present economic & political mindset of government officials, the rich receive tax relief  while programs that help the poor and the working class (student loans, for example) are being cut. Meanwhile, we have colleges such as Dillard, Southern, and Xavier that have been hard hit by Katrina, as well as colleges such as Morris Brown, Knoxville, and Fisk that are hanging on by a thread.  I just learned this week that the college where I taught for many years, LeMoyne-Owen College, has been placed on financial probation and will lose its accreditation next year if conditions don't improve.  

Yet L-OC counts among its graduates Ben Hooks and Willie Herenton, the mayor of Memphis.  Black people in this country make too much money and have too much intelligence to let all of our institutions — our public schools, colleges, community centers, neighborhood stores & restaurants — decline and then die.  Sometimes I wonder if we really care.

I suppose you all read about the salary and excessive perks (limousines, first-class flights to Europe, lavish dinners, valet & chef, $200 bottles of wine, etc.) that the president of American University received.  This was obscene.  Of course the Board was forced to fire him, but he left with millions. Something is wrong with this country when a Black college has to sell a valuable painting to remain viable, while a White college can pay its president enough to put hundreds of students through college.

Clinton: All of your points are valid— and I agree. Am in the process of making a donation of stock to Meharry—with the proviso that it not be sold!!  The Fisk thing did not cause this restriction. My previous experiences over the years of giving have taught me a few lessons.

Bobby: Oprah currently has a "Morehouse scholars" program, for young men . . .. I understand the number is 20 but this may include other HBCUs. Cosby is supporting 2 scholars at Hampton. Spelman graduated his daughter and he and Camille donated 20+ Mil.

Rudy: Miriam, it is all so very sad . . . The state of awareness, of peoplehood, is oh so low . . . I do wish I could make it better . . . I'm afraid that necessity (the actuality of our situation) is more convincing than argument. I suspect that there is no exit, no way to solve the problem as presently structured. Clearly, the struggle for equal education (at least, a competitive one) for all is not yet complete. This situation provides a more poignant element to our previous remarks.  

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Traditions of HBCUs, Other Alternatives

Wilson: My dad never said anything negative about Morehouse, although he was bemused, and later amused, by the Baptist abstemiousness of Morehouse and the puritanism of the entire Atlanta University Complex. Some of the puritanism was good, however, for example the ban on smoking on campus.  Josephine Harreld, who was the daughter of Kemper Harreld, Dad's violin teacher, told me that she used to chat with the Doctor, just beyond the campus palings.  Yes smoking was not allowed on campus, for religious reasons, Du Bois would smoke his cigarettes, apocryphally black Russian, with silver tips, just off campus, and the young Josephine would chat with him during his cigarette breaks.  Whatever the color of his cigarettes, he lived to be 95.

Rudy: I was shocked that it costs $40,000 a year for Morehouse. Yes, I remember reading something about Du Bois reacting negatively to being pulled into religious worship at some black school. I do not think that it was Fisk or Morehouse, however. I believe it was some other school at which he taught.

I was just watching FRONTLINE and the present age of commercial advertising, making one's enterprise more salable. I suspect a lot of this commercial thinking is going on on these black campuses among black administrators, from necessity. But I do not think that these black schools can really compete in that game and win. We are in a different age after 1975.

Before that, black schools had a captive audience and driven by a mission other than being black. The emphasis then was rather on moral (ethical) and intellectual excellence to make ourselves approved. Now these HBCUs are trying to sell blackness and the uniqueness of blackness. It is not working. And it will not work. Because those blacks with money really do not believe in blackness, except when it has a personal financial or ideological advantage. They have little interest in the present racial strategy for black education.

We must revisit again the struggle for equal education in America and thus some of that commercial blackness has to be dispensed with. It is too costly and the government will not be able to pay for it, even under political pressure, and obvious the well-off black middle-class is not willing to pay for it.

Social justice and a more practical politics for the health of the nation might have more political traction.

We have three state colleges here in Baltimore — Coppin (black), Morgan (black) and Towson (white). Creating a bus system between the campuses would be much cheaper than having three English departments, three libraries, three administrations, etc. That is, much of what they do is duplicated. That's waste in the name of blackness and whiteness, which creates a situation for all kinds of sloppy thinking and ethical corruption.

Isn't that what our argument was during Jim Crow, that is, racial segregation is expensive and cannot be sustained equitably?

Well, we're being forced because of the lack of money (Republican politics) to confront the issue again and the race argument from the black handside is not going to win. Unless we are willing to settle for inferior education, we must retool our nationalist arguments or dispense with them altogether.

Elena: Tuition  at Morehouse IS NOT $40,000, it is currently $26,000 and scholarship money IS available for academic as well as financial need ( many institutions no longer offer scholarship money for academics only). Spelman and Morehouse get large donations from celebrities such as Denzel Washington ( whose son currently attends Morehouse) Bill and Camille Cosby, who have a building named in honor of Camille on Spelman's campus, and Oprah Winfrey, who came to Morehouse to give 5 million to Morehouse last year while we were there, but was so impressed with what she saw when she got there that she gave 10 million. Oprah currently has a "Morehouse scholars" program, for young men who she is giving a full ride to ( I don't know the number currently in the program). Pass this first hand info. on if you wish.

Miriam: Celebrities, many of whom have graduated from HBCUS (Spike Lee, Marian Wright Edelman, Samuel L. Jackson, Debi Allen, Phylicia Rashaad, etc.) have been very generous in supporting our colleges and are sending their kids to these schools. 

Wilson: Actually, Du Bois sometimes led prayers during his years at Atlanta University, and the prayers were published with an exceedingly sympathetic introduction by the communist editor Herbert Aptheker, under the title Prayers for Dark People. Everyone should read this book!

Rudy: Yes, I have a copy of the book. But I still remember this incident. I do not recall where I read it. It was not at Atlanta. I think it was the first school he taught at. I forget the name, maybe it was Wilberforce. Maybe by the time he had gotten to Atlanta, he had changed his approach

Wilson: Du Bois records the incident in The Autobiography, p. 186.  "the student leader of a prayer meeting into which I had wandered casually to look local religion over, suddenly and without warning announced that 'Professor Du Bois will lead us in prayer.'  I simply answered, 'No he won't' and as a result, nearly lost my job." Yes, it was Wilberforce.

Rodney: Rudy, let me add my perspective on things. I've never attended an HBCU, so this is based purely on the observations I've made while visiting, and then contrasting these observations with the HWCUs that I've attended. After graduating from City in 2002, I matriculated to Washington and Lee University as a freshman. W&L is a bastion of white middle/upper class conservatism. It is alma mater to the likes of Pat Roberston and Tom Wolfe. 

I was only one of 9 or so black males in my entire class of just under 500. There were "significantly" more black females. In any case, coming out of high school, the only HBCU I applied to was Howard. I applied to UMBC and UMD for state schools, and several elite liberal arts schools such as Bowdoin and Bates, as well as some Ivy League. I was accepted to all of my choice colleges and W&L gave me the most money. As my mom told me, I would need a full ride if I wanted to go to college, and off to W&L I went.

W&L was desperate for students of color. There was/is a need to change the perception of that school's culture, and I am told they have made progress. I wouldn't know. I left after freshman year. The conservatism was deep and the racism subtle and rampant. Yet despite this bad experience, it was a young white English teacher that convinced me that I had any talent for writing or intellectual work, and for that I am grateful.

I have visited several HBCUs, and it is sad, but they are barely being kept alive. I visited Fisk and was shocked at its conditions. Not as bad as say, Lemoyne Owen, but, quite bad. And remember, Fisk is one of the better HBCUs. Compare the resources of Fisk to Towson, a solid, good state school. Towson wins in a landslide as far as resources.

The problem with this argument is that for someone like myself, and I suspect this would have been the case for you, too, Rudy, attending a HBCU would have neither been to my benefit or detriment. I would just be as pissed with Howard as W&L. This I know. While I don't have any regrets in life, a school like Bowdoin or Oberlin would have likely been a better fit for me than either an HBCU or a school like UMBC or W&L. I say this because at certain schools, there is a culture of experimentation and intellectual curiosity that you can't find elsewhere. 

I'm not so certain my type of black would be acceptable at a HBCU. As we know, all our skin folk ain't our kin folk. So in this search for comfort or what have you (this is what I hear from many people advocating HBCUs), one is assuming that blacks will assist you or allow you to develop better on the basis that they are black. My favorite teachers in high school were black (women), and in college, two white males have motivated me in ways I wouldn't have imagined. 

The thing is, as a student, one must find his niche, and that can be done most anywhere, excepting for schools such as Bob Jones. Obviously, we all need support, which often isn't offered at some of the more conservative white schools. But we can't expect from the black ones either, as has been demonstrated from the Hampton fiasco.

Also, the state sponsored HBCUs graduate more blacks than the mainstream institutions because blacks are their target market. It would be like saying HWCUs graduate more white students than do HBCUs. One can be eligible for acceptance or scholarship to many HBCUs based on certain prerequisites, say a 3.0 GPA and an 1100 SAT for scholarship, and a 2.5 and 900 for acceptance. 

This is what the literature they send out claims anyway, and this is what they say when promoting their school. Obviously, this is attractive to Baltimore City Public School System students, who are getting inferior quality education as compared to their white counterparts . . . and are able to meet these requirements. Whereas a 3.0 and 1100 SAT might not get you into UMBC, it might get you a scholarship at Morgan. 

So, I think we need a more sober analysis when we say that HBCUs graduate more black students. Also, keep in mind that I don't think that HBCUs are of no use to black students, but that I certainly believe it depends on the student. Not every student will flourish at a HBCU, which is what some advocates would like you to believe. Either way, public HBCUs deserve more equitable funding, this can't be argued.  

posted 13 December 2005/

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Criticizing Over-Rated HWCUs

Brian: Rudy, There are many more sober and sustained critiques of HBCUs than what you have here about Rodney’s openness in dealing with these issues. In fact, I’ll place in the mail along with my check to ChickenBones a copy of an article written when I was an HBCU senior in 1995 that does this. (In fact there are many of my own peers who are HBCU grads and have gone on to do important work that simultaneously level sustained criticism while still forging ahead in their respective careers.) 

Yet and still, there is a need to go much more beyond this even (I dare say) challenging the quality of education offered anywhere in American including both HWCUs and HBCUs. If indeed HWCUs are so much more valuable then explain why the Harvards, Yales, and Dukes though situated within the heart of “chocolate cities” can have little or no impact on African American literacy and graduation rates or college matriculation? 

If indeed HWCUs are so much more valuable, why are black faculty who are situated within these institutions can only point to their individual ranks, publications and tenure secured without forming any lasting and sustainable places for solid African American intellectual exchange that is mutually accepted by both the academy and the larger African American community?  

For I have had experiences in both institutions and though HBCUs have their own obvious problems, let’s be clear that HWCUs are not exactly bastions of a thriving African American intellectual life. Even as Rodney has admitted by his decision to leave for there have been many such decisions to leave elite and mid-tier HWCUs made by strong African American students. Better still, if HWCUs are places where perhaps our most talented cadre would be served better, where is the evidence for this? 

Do not give me the rare case, in each field where you have the one Negro who has overcome. For this is the grass jutting out from the concrete sidewalk syndrome. (I’m seeking to smash the entire sidewalk so that all my brother and sister leaves of grass can flourish in the light of the day and received the moisture that comes in from the rain.) Much more, why not be rid of these institutions all together (I speak as a fool) and create a place online whether thriving African American intellectual exchange may take place…Might ChickenBones be the start of something like this?

Rudy: Brian, I do not for one moment believe that the HWCUs are serving fully the needs of black education equity with regards to either black faculty or black students. Here in Baltimore we have Loyola University and Hopkins University. Of course, these two schools are open to black matriculation. But there is a social disconnect. Though Hopkins probably does more,  both have their heads in the sand when it comes to the problems of urban education and urban poverty. They are satisfied to let black leaders and black schools deal with these problems.

But our black leaders do not have sufficient power or sufficient resources to deal with these problems alone. They must publicly admit their impotence to serve their black constituency.

We cannot allow these HWCUs to escape their responsibilities to the urban centers in which they find themselves. And this applies especially to Hopkins because it is an economic power, the largest employer in Baltimore, and involved in the economic exploitation of the black poor through its hospital and other health facilities. Check out this file Dominance of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore Economy.

In order to effect a different response from these schools I think that the black argument has to be reframed. The difficulties of educating blacks within our communities cannot be viewed as problems that blacks themselves must solve alone. We are all in it together. We are all citizens of the same state and nation. And that all have a responsibility to attend to these problems. We must demand that Hopkins and Loyola provide recommendations, plans, solutions, and resources to deal with these overwhelming problems. This is the position of the historian John Hope Franklin. I think it is an excellent stance that must be pursued.

We must not alienate them (whites) and call them names because we don't like the suggestions they offer. We must deal with them on the basis of the real value and worth of the suggestions that they offer to improve the situation. To effect this new approach, I think that blacks will have to relinquish some of the old arguments with regard to HBCU traditions that must be protected and defended.

This new approach must consider practically the economics and the philosophy of education in a democratic state. In this matter we must be willing to further give up the integrity of such black institutions as Coppin State and Morgan State. There is no justification for having three state colleges in the same city that duplicate the same programs. The maintenance of separate education institutions based on race can no longer be sustained: it is inefficient and ineffective in the service of the greatest number of our citizens.

We need a new movement with regards to these education problems. In order to bring about this new movement we need a more realistic self-criticism of the causes of our present failures.

Dr. Joyce King Black Education and others (like Abdul Alkalimat) are indeed considering the use of the internet to further black higher education. I am not sure what is the present state of its actual practice. I think that maybe Dillard and Xavier might be forced to deal with this option because of their present circumstances and make use of this alternative. But of course we still have black educators who still refuse to make use of even e-mail. Even with the advances in technology we are behind the intellectual curve in its use and that we consider these new technological advances as  "toys," not as a means for advancement and liberation.   

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The White Architects of Black Education

Ideology and Power in America, 1865-1954

By William Watkins

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An Overview of the Problem of Black Higher Education

Rodney: It has just occurred to me that in this discussion of HBCUs vs HWCUs, we've side stepped something that might contribute greatly to the conversation. I have before me "Education As My Agenda," a book by Morgan's Jo Ann Robinson about Gertrude Williams, race, and the Baltimore City Public Schools. I hope to have a review of it completed for City Paper in the coming weeks. In any event, I am a graduate of the BCPSS, but I had the benefit of being tracked into the best classes at the best schools, Cross Country, Roland Park, and City.

That said, we know how horrible the public school system is, and this is the case for urban public schools across the country, a disproportionate of which are majority black, or black and Hispanic. According to the Harvard Civil Rights Project, 70% of black children attend schools that are mostly minority, under-performing schools. And we all know this to be the case.

Now, Ruth Simmons of Brown University, who attended Dillard as an undergrad, only to attend Harvard for grad school, acknowledged on Charlie Rose how poor k-12 is as compared to American colleges and universities. So, we have a great deal of black students who are being underserved and under-prepared by public schools K-12, many of which are administered by blacks. This is common knowledge. I also know this from experience. After what I thought was a rigorous curriculum at City, I was astonished by the curriculum of my white peers at Washington and Lee who attend MD public schools such as Towson, Carver A&T, Catonsville, and Broadneck, all predominately white and middle-class. I was embarrassed, and in fact, felt inadequate. And City is one of the three elite public schools in Baltimore City.

That being said, while I understand that we all want to serve the interests of most black students, I believe Brian referred to it as breaking the whole pavement, HBCUs are only serving a limited number of young black people. We are still dealing with the "best of the best" when we speak of black college students. 

I think it is fair to assume that the majority of black students are being under-prepared for college—we are being failed by whole systems—if we make it to college to begin with. So, those of us who do make it are under-prepared, while a larger number are left behind. Simmons notes that just because you are under-prepared for college doesn't mean you can't be a successful collegian, and HBCUs are known for their ability to get the most out of their students, at least this is how they advertise.

Still, HBCUs, like all other colleges, are too expensive for the typical black student to attend, even with the benefit of financial aid, which is a joke. This is why 44% of undergrad students attend community colleges: affordability, the easier transition from high school to college, and their lower admission standards.

Why then, are we not talking about community colleges and the dire situation of public schooling K-12? We can assume that a great number of black collegians are at community colleges, if 44% of all undergrads attend community colleges. If we really want to ensure the best interests of black youth, I think we need to look at K-12, which is both segregationist and inept in practice. In our well-intentioned critique of HBCUs and HWCUs, we've mistakenly disregarded a large body of young blacks who are either unable to afford college, or are unqualified (because of failing public school systems).

Being from a working class family, had I not lucked into the situation that I did, that is, if I hadn't been tracked into the "bright classes," and thus afforded access to things that were unavailable to my peers, I might very well have been another unemployed, or underemployed, young black male. Perhaps the question is, how can HBCUs serve the majority of under-prepared, underserved black high school graduates (or dropouts), or do we need something radically different? That is, something like the Baltimore Free University, or the Bolivarian Universities which are free, but might then present further challenges. (Rodney D. Foxworth, Jr. / Baltimore City Paper / Freelance Writer / 4243 Labyrinth Road / Baltimore, MD 21215 / 410-978-0045 /,  

Rudy: Rodney, I think you have an excellent overview of the problems of black higher education. The core problem, you point out correctly, is the state of black public schools. Underprepared black high school graduates have found an answer in the community college. You might have also noted that Bush has emphasized the community college as a means of getting quickly into the job market. Of course, this development does not mollify the decreasing emphasis on an excellent liberal arts education, which I think is extremely important for good responsible citizenship and health of the community.

Whether we are talking about black public schools, black community colleges, black state universities, or private black colleges, the common denominator of distress is the lack of  public or state underfunding. Part of this underfunding results from inefficienct and ineffective use of available funds, much of which is used to duplicate educational programs and to duplicate administrative heads, on the basis of race. We are discovering presently that  the decrease in government taxation exposes the impracticality of education on a racial basis.

Black self-segregation (HBCU schooling) is expensive and only a few of these schools can sustain themselves and there is an increasingly likelihood that most will not survive. In creating our 40 year plans for black education, it seems that all these factors have to be taken into consideration and prepare ourselves economically to educate that 50 percent that drop out of high schools and imrpove the overall quality of black public education.

The question remains whether our white brothers and sisters are willing to put up the necessary funds, even if progressive blacks are willing to sacrifice their sacred cows, namely, black state colleges, for a more economic state college education

Herbert: I think this discussion on education is a healthy one and much needed.  Yes, I agree that K-12 is crucial to the discussion.  As you well know, public education in the city of Baltimore is in utter CHAOS.  There is much needed reform, if we are going to turn these schools around.  There is, also, much empirical data to suggest that very few black students who enroll in community colleges will end up matriculating at four year institutions.  In states with better community colleges, e.g. California, Florida, and New York, there might be a higher percentages of minority students going on to four year institutions. 

I do not, however, agree with Rudy that underfunding is the cause of much of the problems which we find our public schools in today.  Who is talking about these days the $58 millions which remains unaccounted from the education budget of the Baltimore City Public Schools. Again, the majority of Blacks graduating from four institutions in the state of Maryland are receiving their undergraduate degrees from historical black institutions.

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#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.

"Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest.

Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

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The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935

By James D. Anderson

James Anderson critically reinterprets the history of southern black education from Reconstruction to the Great Depression. By placing black schooling within a political, cultural, and economic context, he offers fresh insights into black commitment to education, the peculiar significance of Tuskegee Institute, and the conflicting goals of various philanthropic groups, among other matters. Initially, ex-slaves attempted to create an educational system that would support and extend their emancipation, but their children were pushed into a system of industrial education that presupposed black political and economic subordination. This conception of education and social order—supported by northern industrial philanthropists, some black educators, and most southern school officials—conflicted with the aspirations of ex-slaves and their descendants, resulting at the turn of the century in a bitter national debate over the purposes of black education. Because blacks lacked economic and political power, white elites were able to control the structure and content of black elementary, secondary, normal, and college education during the first third of the twentieth century. Nonetheless, blacks persisted in their struggle to develop an educational system in accordance with their own needs and desires.

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Whatever It Takes

Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America

By Paul Tough

What would it take? That was the question that Geoffrey Canada found himself asking. What would it take to change the lives of poor children—not one by one, through heroic interventions and occasional miracles, but in big numbers, and in a way that could be replicated nationwide? The question led him to create the Harlem Children's Zone, a ninety-seven-block laboratory in central Harlem where he is testing new and sometimes controversial ideas about poverty in America. His conclusion: if you want poor kids to be able to compete with their middle-class peers, you need to change everything in their lives—their schools, their neighborhoods, even the child-rearing practices of their parents. Whatever It Takes is a tour de force of reporting, an inspired portrait not only of Geoffrey Canada but also of the parents and children in Harlem who are struggling to better their lives, often against great odds. Carefully researched and deeply affecting, this is a dispatch from inside the most daring and potentially transformative social experiment of our time.

Paul Tough is an editor at the New York Times Magazine and one of America's foremost writers on poverty, education, and the achievement gap. His reporting on Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone originally appeared as a Times Magazine cover story. He lives with his wife in New York City.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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