Why We Must Destroy Negative Stigmas About HBCUs
HBCUs have birthed some of our most beloved and incredibly talented Black figures.
During a time of overt racism, hatred and separation — historically Black colleges and universities served as a home to Black students who still wanted to further their education. This was despite the horrific external circumstances they were dealing with. In 1837, Richard Humphreys created the African Institute, the oldest HBCU; today, it’s known as Cheyney University.
In the following years, specifically after the emancipation proclamation, more HBCUs started to be formed. Although HBCUs can be found in many states, most are in the south. That’s partially because most of them were founded before and during the early stages of the great migration. This was when Black Americans began to travel up north. These colleges and universities stood as institutions that believed in furthering the minds of young Black people. In doing so, it created a specific culture for those attendees. Despite having such a triumphant history, today, HBCUs get many unwarranted criticisms for not being “good enough” institutions. As a result, they receive less funding than their Predominantly White Institution counterparts.
There are many stigmas that HBCUs, and the students that attend them, face. Based on reports from the U.S. Department of Education, 7% of Black students enrolled in undergraduate programs attend HBCUs, while 53% of Black students attend PWIs. We make up 13% of the college population and funding is a massive factor in the overall decision of what college you’ll also attend.
PWIs such as the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, Princeton and the University of Michigan receive over $13 million in endowments and Harvard gets $53 billion. The endowment rates for HBCUs are drastically stark in comparison. The highest going endowment to Howard University amounts to only $795,203. That’s a $52 billion difference. There’s not a single HBCU with an endowment over a million dollars. Some HBCUs are barely even receiving over $50,000. Fayetteville State University only has $33,581. Endowments, when broken down, are investments that go into bettering the school. This includes the actual campus, campus programming, class options, food and dorms. The higher the endowment, the better your campus life and overall college experience. While the staff and students at HBCUs cannot control the amount of money that’s getting poured into them, it doesn’t help to debunk the common misconception that HBCUs won’t provide you with quality education and experience.
Throughout history, there can be a lot of anti-Black rhetoric about Black people who reside in the south. It’s another unfortunate deciding factor that prevents people from applying and attending HBCUs. This idea is that Black people in the south are uneducated, ghetto and unprofessional. These are all false and have been entirely created and spread by agents of white supremacy.
There are over 101 HBCUs, with a large majority of those schools being in southern states, with Alabama having over 14 institutions alone. Most students, when applying for schools, avoid HBCUs because of travel. But some will go even longer distances to avoid attending HBCUs. HBCUs have birthed some of our most beloved and incredibly talented Black figures.
From the historical greats of Zora Neale Hurston (Howard University), Langton Hughes (Lincoln University), Nikki Giovanni (Fisk University), Toni Morrison (Howard University) and Martin Luther King Jr. (Morehouse College). To our current greats, Spike Lee (Morehouse College), Debbie Allen (Howard University), Chadwick Boseman (Howard University), Samuel Jackson (Morehouse College) and many more! To say HBCUs don’t provide quality education is such an understatement. Aside from the artistic legends, HBCUs have produced high rates of graduates who have gone on to enter the education and medical fields. 70% of Black students who are dentists or physicians obtained their degrees at HBCUs, while 50% go on to be public schoolteachers. HBCUs produce legends!
The culture of HBCUs has become more mainstream over the past few years. From Beyoncé’s “Beychella” performance that highlighted majorettes and steppers — things specifically tied to HBCU culture, to a massive debate that was sparked when a Black student created a majorette team at a PWI which brought people to teach the history of why those particular dance teams and styles were populated on HBCU campuses. If you can love the culture and participate in it, you have to ensure you’re honoring and respecting the creators of it.
It’s important to debunk these racist and anti-Black stigmas and open up the conversation about why HBCUs don’t get the proper investment they deserve. There’s no reason why predominantly Black schools should receive a $52 billion less difference in their endowment when those schools promote brilliant and talented individuals. The school shouldn’t be faulted for a racist system that works to continue to perpetuate the same policies they did to result in HBCUs being created in the first place. We must work to erase the stigmas and educate people on the advantages of attending something dear to our culture.
Alycia Kamil is a freedom fighter and believer of the people. She is a Freshman at Wilbur Wright College. Follow her writings, interests and more here.