HBCU Graduates Are Finally Getting the Recognition That We Deserve
We’ve always been vanguards of excellence, and it didn’t start with VP-elect Kamala Harris
Watching the vote counts crawl in during the 2020 election cycle, many of us lived, breathed, talked, and posted about each new vote total from counties, cities, and towns in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. As the days went on, there were first murmurs and then full-on conversations about the fact that graduates of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were bringing the fight to Republicans.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the first woman and person of African and/or Asian descent to win the office, attended Howard University. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, whose city looks to be on track to flip the state of Georgia blue, graduated from Florida A&M. Voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, who worked in coalition with other organizers to register over 800,000 new voters, graduated from Spelman College. Missouri’s newest congressperson, Black Lives Matter activist, and rising Democratic star Cori Bush attended Harris-Stowe State University. Morehouse College’s own Raphael Warnock, running for one of the two U.S. Senate seats up for grabs in Georgia, earned enough votes to force a January runoff election that could help deliver the Senate to Democrats. All of this took place as Princeton University professor and department chair Eddie Glaude, a Morehouse man, dissected results for MSNBC.
I am a graduate of Spelman, and so, along with the particular pride HBCU grads feel when one of our number shines, I knew an often repeated and dismissive “corrective” was coming and that it would be something along the lines of “That’s great and all, but HBCUs are not the real world.”
This statement is sometimes offered as a way to say Black success requires predominantly White educational institutions or, at other times, to simply dismiss the 21st-century importance of HBCUs. In either case, it is as perplexing a proposition to me as it is a truthful one. HBCUs aren’t our current real world, and that’s a good thing.
In a country where Black people so often have to fight for the right to be, live, and breathe, HBCUs start from the…