The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities & Race Relations in America

Published on28 NOV 2017
Making Progress Towards Racial Equity

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have a unique and important place in the history of America. In this conversation, documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson, Jr., Howard University President Dr. Wayne Frederick and Johnny Taylor, Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, discuss the critical role that HBCUs have played throughout their history in creating educational opportunities and advancing the state of race relations in the U.S.

Nelson on telling the story of HBCUs through his film, Tell Them We Are Rising: “In 1865, schools just took off and for the next 25 or so years, this is where schools were just started because it was felt by African Americans after the Civil War that all we have to go is get an education. If we just can get this magic thing of an education, everything will be changed and HBCUs were so important in that time and in that era.”

Dr. Frederick on the on the unique opportunities offered by HBCUs: “The thing that HBCUs does is that HBCUs take away those shackles from the opportunity. It’s an unbridled opportunity when you go to an HBCU to fulfill not just your potential, but, like me, wanting to become an internist, attending a university like Howard with sickle cell and become a surgeon, work 110 hours a week as a resident and not have anyone question my capacity to do that.  But rather, have people give me encouragement and support to do it. And that's what our HBCUs have to do today.”

Taylor, Jr. on how to think about diversity: “One of the things that we strongly encourage our students to do at HBCUs is to also realize that diversity is a two-way street. Inclusion is a two-way street that you too have some obligation to open yourself up and learn and be willing to understand there is a world out there that is not purely the world that you grew up in. And that’s an opportunity.”

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