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Stand and Prosper is the first authoritative history in decades of black colleges and universities in America. It tells the story of educational institutions that offered, and continue to offer, African Americans a unique opportunity to transcend the legacy of slavery while also bearing its burden. Henry Drewry and Humphrey Doermann present an up-to-date and comprehensive assessment of their past, present, and possible future.
Black colleges fully got off the ground only after the Civil War--more than two centuries after higher education formally began in British North America. Despite horrendous obstacles, they survived and even proliferated until well past the mid-twentieth century. As the authors show, however, the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education brought them to a crucial juncture. While validating the rights of blacks to pursue opportunities outside racial and class lines, it drew the future of these institutions into doubt. By the mid-1970s black colleges competed with other colleges for black students--a welcome expansion of choices for African-American youth but a huge recruitment challenge for black colleges.
The book gradually narrows its focus from a general history to a look at the development of forty-five private black colleges in recent decades. It describes their varied responses to the changes of the last half-century and documents their influence in the development of the black middle class. The authors underscore the vital importance of government in supporting these institutions, from the Freedman's Bureau during Reconstruction to federal aid in our own time.
Stand and Prosper offers a fascinating portrait of the distinctive place black colleges and universities have occupied in American history as crucibles of black culture, and of the formidable obstacles they must surmount if they are to continue fulfilling this important role.
"The book includes much factual data on the colleges but aptly conveys the important contributions of these schools as race relations have evolved and the challenges they face in the future, ranging from chronic underfunding to attacks on affirmative action. A valuable resource."--Booklist
"Stand and Prosper is a very informative read. [It] is a great book for teenagers on their way to college, or for an inquisitive parent searching for the right place to send their child."--Kurt London, Black Diaspora
"[A] landmark study. . . . It is a 'first:' an authoritative, comprehensive study of the forty-five private four-year colleges in the United States, complete with data, historical facts, and institutional case studies. . . . The conclusions reached by Drewry and Doermann . . . are encouraging for the future of black colleges and for any institution truly dedicated to learning."--Elizabeth S. Blake, About Campus
"Historically black colleges and universities are an integral part of the American system of higher education. . . . Stand and Prosper makes a meaningful contribution to the ongoing quest for understanding, recognition, and appreciation of these institutions."--Ronyelle B. Ricard and M. Christopher Brown, Journal of Higher Education
MOST AMERICANS have little direct contact with private black colleges, have not visited one, and are not sure what they should expect if they did. This first chapter sketches for the newcomer how these colleges appear today and outlines key forces and trends that shaped them during the past thirty years. For these institutions, however, early history is as important as recent history. In some ways more so. Prior to the 1950s and 1960s, black Americans lived a very different history of civil rights and educational opportunity than did white Americans. The difference is far greater than that portrayed in most U.S. history survey courses that are taught in secondary schools and colleges. Without appreciation of that difference, one cannot understand what an accomplishment of determination and faith the success of many of these black colleges represents today, nor can one properly judge the potential of these colleges for further service to the nation. This chapter ends with an introduction to that separate history. During the 1950s and 1960s, three changes in law altered fundamentally the role of black Americans and of private black colleges in American society. The first, noted in the Preface, was the 1954U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which directed that public elementary and secondary schools be racially integrated, and which laid the legal foundation for later court rulings directing integration of public colleges and universities in the South. The second major change was passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the third was the Higher Education Act of 1965. Prior to the 1950s, black public and private colleges were, with rare exceptions, the only colleges accessible to black Americans. Black students prepared for a relatively narrow range of professional careers, principally teaching and the ministry. By the 1970s, however, black students were enrolling in historically black and also in predominantly white colleges, with a far wider range of careers open to them than before. Owing to the federal student aid and direct institutional subsidy under the Higher Education Act, private black colleges suddenly found themselves supported by significant government money, and, also for the first time, confronted with aggressive national competition for able students and faculty.
In 1950, prior to the Brown decision, about 90 percent of black American college and university enrollment was in historically black colleges, public and private. By 1970 there were approximately 357,000 black American undergraduates, the majority in institutions where few if any Blacks had enrolled previously. One hundred seventy thousand or 48 percent were in historically black colleges. Fifty-six thousand of these undergraduates were enrolled in private black colleges. During the next thirty years, the number of African American students choosing predominantly white institutions grew rapidly. Meanwhile, the number attending historically black colleges leveled off until the 1980s and then, with a sharp increase in women's enrollment, rose again to record levels in the 1990s.1
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, several foundation-supported assessments of the status and prospects of historically black colleges ranged in tone from near funereal to cautiously optimistic. Daniel C. Thompson, professor of sociology at Dillard University, a private black institution, wrote in 1973 that "Private black colleges are challenged to institute revolutionary reorganization or face progressive disorganization. Most of these colleges, which have performed so nobly in the past, are now threatened by extinction (progressive disorganization) unless they seriously examine themselves, find the constant support needed, and bravely make the program and structural changes necessary in order to be truly relevant."2
Vivian W. Henderson, president of Clark College, another private black college in Atlanta, wrote that "The historic Negro college will have the responsibility for educating a diminishing but significant proportion of black youth enrolled in higher education Negro colleges will be slow in attracting white students not because of the policy or lack of quality but because institutionalized and entrenched racism is a barrier to the movement of white youth."3
William J. Trent, Jr., executive director of the United Negro College Fund from 1944 to 1964, cautioned against belief in any simple projection: "People generally discuss Negro colleges as if they were all alike, with a common fate. This is nonsense. Negro colleges are located alo a spectrum of quality ranging from excellent to poor, just as are other institutions. Further, what will happen to these Negro colleges will cover a broad spectrum of possibilities."4
Although Trent was correct in warning about the dangers of easy generalization, a broad description of this collegiate landscape is possible. Today's forty-five four-year historically black private colleges can be divided into three groups according to enrollment size. Ranked in thirds, by size, the largest of the colleges enroll between approximately fifteen hundred and six thousand students. These colleges offer a strong variety of well-taught liberal arts and precareer subjects, generally pay higher faculty and staff salaries compared with the smaller black colleges, and often send a significant number of graduates on to major graduate schools. In many respects, they are competitive with white liberal arts colleges of similar size. About half of the largest-enrollment private black colleges are also in the largest Southern cities: Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Miami.
The majority of these colleges and universities do not concentrate on graduate studies, although several offer a few post-baccalaureate specialties. For example, Clark Atlanta University has a long history of Ph.D. work. Howard University, Washington, D.C., is a research university with a full spectrum of professional programs. Xavier University of Louisiana provides the only graduate pharmacy program in New Orleans. Hampton University and Tuskegee University recently launched doctoral programs in science, Tuskegee University trains doctors of veterinary medicine, and Virginia Union University offers doctoral study in theology. Several universities and colleges offer master's-level studies.5
The middle third of these colleges enrolls between eight hundred and fifteen hundred students. These colleges are more likely to be found in middle-sized Southern cities such as Tuscaloosa, Orangeburg, Nashville, and Augusta. Although they have enjoyed some of the same successes as the larger colleges, they have sometimes had to struggle harder to maintain enrollment growth and quality.
The smallest colleges in the final group enroll two hundred to eight hundred students. They more frequently welcome students not well prepared for college by their prior schooling. These often are first-generation college students and students from rural Southern homes. During the past three decades, some of these very small colleges languished for years at a time under indifferent leadership and a few narrowly escaped closing down. However, some of the same colleges at different times have enjoyed excellent leadership and showed a remarkable capacity for rapid improvement.6
The four-year accredited private black colleges are listed here, in the three different enrollment groupings based on 1995 enrollment statistics. If their past is a guide, several colleges in each of these groups will grow or shrink significantly, and so move into a different category. Perhaps because many of these colleges are relatively small, with few finan-cial reserves, the volatility within this group is greater than one might encounter, for example, among the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, or the Ivy League:
I. Largest fifteen historically black private colleges
Benedict College, Columbia, South Carolina
Bethune-Cookman College, Daytona Beach, Florida
Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia
Dillard University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia
Howard University, Washington, District of Columbia
Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia
Morris Brown College, Atlanta, Georgia
Oakwood College, Huntsville, Alabama
Saint Augustine's College, Raleigh, North Carolina
Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina
Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia
Tuskegee University, Tuskegee,Alabama
Virginia Union University, Richmond, Virginia
Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, Louisiana
II. Fifteen next-largest colleges
Claflin College, Orangeburg, South Carolina
Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee
Florida Memorial College, Miami, Florida
Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, North Carolina
LeMoyne-Owen College, Memphis, Tennessee
Miles College, Birmingham, Alabama
Paine College, Augusta, Georgia
Paul Quinn College, Dallas, Texas
Philander Smith College, Little Rock, Arkansas
Rust College, Holly Springs, Mississippi
Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi
Voorhees College, Denmark, South Carolina
Wilberforce University, Wilberforce, Ohio
III. Fifteen smallest-enrollment colleges
Arkansas Baptist College, Little Rock, Arkansas
Allen University, Columbia, South Carolina
Bennett College, Greensboro, North Carolina
Barber-Scotia College, Concord, North Carolina
Edward Waters College, Jacksonville, Florida
Huston-Tillotson College, Austin, Texas
Jarvis Christian College, Hawkins, Texas
Knoxville College, Knoxville, Tennessee
Lane College, Jackson, Tennessee
Livingstone College, Salisbury, North Carolina
Saint Paul's College, Lawrenceville, Virginia
Southwestern Christian College, Terrell, Texas
Talladega College, Talladega, Alabama
Texas College, Tyler, Texas
Wiley College, Marshall, Texas
Close inspection of the list reveals that even within the three enrollment groups there is much variety of purpose and clientele. Tougaloo College and Talladega College, for example, are not high-enrollment institutions, but have produced a significant number of graduates who subsequently earned doctoral and professional degrees. Although a majority of the largest-enrollment colleges draw more than half their students from out of state, three of them-Bethune-Cookman, Dillard, and Shaw-enroll more than 60 percent of their students from in-state.
Except for the different racial mix, a first-time visitor to one of these colleges will find much that looks familiar. Approximately 95 percent of the students and more than half the faculty and staff are African American.7 As with colleges throughout the nation, most black colleges began with two- or three-story brick buildings with white wooden trim, often reminiscent of early New England colleges. But all are not the same. Dillard University in New Orleans mixes colonial and plantation-style buildings in an orderly, spacious campus plan. Urban colleges such as Morehouse and Xavier include both the early low-rise buildings and later urban high-rise design, reflecting a need to accommodate on limited city sites a larger enrollment than the founders anticipated. Tougaloo College, built on a former slave plantation, samples the architecture of several periods: the president's office is in the original plantation owner's house, next door to a large 1960s rough-concrete library, and a block from a utilitarian 1990s humanities building.
Like American colleges generally, many historically black colleges expanded in the 1960s, aided by low-cost federal construction loans. Their campuses contain occasional familiar-looking glass-and-steel box buildings-dormitories and classrooms-which looked modern and functional when they were built, but have since developed maintenance problems and may no longer meet modern building codes. Finally, as with most colleges today, the major new buildings on historically black college campuses have been designed with more attention to attractiveness and comfort-as well as to utility-than generally was true twenty or thirty years ago.
Richard P. Dober is senior consultant for a planning group that advises trustees and architects about campus design and college building projects in the United States and abroad. Over the past forty years, he has visited private black colleges many times, assessing their physical plant for The Ford Foundation in the 1960s, and reviewing building and renovation proposals for the Bush and Hewlett Foundations in the 1980s and 1990s. He finds the quality of planning and construction in recent years at private black colleges comparable to that on college campuses elsewhere. The campus for Spelman College, an elite private black college for women, is not the same as the campus for Bryn Mawr College, an elite, predominantly white women's college. Spelman has not enjoyed significant outside financial support for as long as Bryn Mawr. But Dober thinks their planning standards are comparable today in ways that were not true in the 1960s and 1970s. Here are his impressions:
These private black colleges, often located in small and middle sized communities, are visible cultural centers, sources of jobs, and symbols of pride. Often to get to them, you cross the tracks, pass through modest if not impoverished neighborhoods, and enter the campus, surprised and experiencing a more pleasant place.
At some institutions, the older edifices were splendid examples of enterprise and skill. Designed by the locals, built with bricks manufactured on the site and with lumber planed there, crafted and erected by the faculty, staff and students-their scale, detailing and simplicity were architecturally attractive. How sad, then, to see nearby the government regulated and funded, minimal contemporary structures that seemingly ignored the aesthetic lessons evident in the historic buildings.
Equally evident were the contrasting landscapes; the newer areas bleak, the older parts of the campus visually comforting in their tree cover, lawns and shrubbery.
Worst of all, in memory, now and then, here and there, was the physical decay in the older and better architecture; the neglect explained away by financial difficulties which forced the campus administrators to give higher priority to people and programs than to physical spaces.8
Unfortunately, the financial difficulties are not just administrative excuses. Private black colleges live on lean budgets-some extremely lean. Average tuition received per student in these colleges in 1996 was $6,347, or 62 percent of the amount received per student by all four-year private colleges.
Excerpted from Stand and Prosper by Henry N. Drewry and Humphrey Doermann Excerpted by permission.
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