Changing the HBCU Narrative

Changing the HBCU Narrative


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



We want to revise the public narrative around HBCUs. It’s a narrative that has been so incomplete, so

remiss in celebrating success and creative investment. And right here in North Carolina, the state’s 11

HBCUs are demonstrating the power of collaboration and showing what successful partnerships  look like.

Last year, North Carolina’s HBCUs enrolled more than 42,000 students and awarded over 6,700 degrees.



Changing the HBCU Narrative

 From Corrective Action to Creative Investment

Remarks by Secretary Arne Duncan


HBCU Symposium

North Carolina Central University Centennial

June 3, 2010

Last September, I had the opportunity to speak at the National HBCU conference in Washington, DC, at which many of you were present. I shared with you my conviction that HBCUs must not merely survive but thrive. Today, I want to update you on what we and HBCUs, working together, have accomplished since last fall—and speak to the challenges that remain.

As you know, President Obama has set an ambitious goal for the nation. He wants America to again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. That goal is the North Star for all of our education efforts. Reaching it will require institutions of higher education to dramatically boost college completion—by the end of the decade, our national college degree attainment rate must rise from 40 percent to 60 percent.

The math here is pretty simple: The president’s goal can only be attained if an unprecedented number of Americans enroll in and complete college—whether it is a four-year degree, a two-year degree, or a certificate. And that means that student populations with high dropout rates, especially minority students, will have to exponentially increase their college graduation rates. As I said last September, HBCUs will—and absolutely must—play a critical leadership role in meeting this challenge. This is not just about access—this is about attainment.

It is true that HBCUs have been under-resourced for decades. And no one knows the obstacles confronting HBCUs better than you. At too many HBCUs, endowments are undercapitalized. Faculty salaries are too low. Financial aid is inadequate. Facilities are deteriorating.

Sadly, far too few students arrive on campus ready for college coursework—and far too many students drop out without earning a degree. As Cordell Wynn, the former president of Stillman College, said of HBCUs, “no other institution of higher learning has had to do so much, for so many, with so little.”

That daily challenge—of seeking to do more with less—is real. I don’t minimize for a second that tough assignment, especially in today’s economy. Yet for all of the longstanding issues that HBCUs face, I am convinced that HBCUs have much to teach other institutions of higher education about access and retention.

As I said last September, it is HBCUs that, over a period of decades, have established a remarkable record of working with students who were the first members of their families to attend college and who often arrived on campus ill-prepared for college work.

A lot has happened since I spoke at the national HBCU conference last September. But I can report that HBCU’s are receiving unprecedented attention and support at the highest levels of the administration.

In February, at a memorable gathering at the White House, President Obama signed a new executive order promoting excellence, innovation, and sustainability at HBCUs. That executive order re-authorizes the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. John Wilson directs the White House Initiative—and he has been an outstanding leader and tireless advocate for HBCUs.

The President’s Executive Order did two things that I want to call to your attention today. First, it brings to bear all the resources of the federal government on behalf of HBCUs. As the President said when he signed the order, the mission of strengthening America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities isn’t a task that falls to HBCU presidents “or to the Department of Education alone . . . agencies across the federal government [will] help support this mission.”

Second, the Executive Order calls for a more explicit and re-imagined partnership with the private sector to strengthen the capacity of HBCUs. The Department of Education will work with the White House Initiative to place more emphasis on the productive work carried out by HBCUs—whether it is research, community outreach, or empowering ill-prepared students to become competitive achievers. By drawing more attention to the extraordinary accomplishments of HBCUs, we seek to shift the narrative of HBCUs in the philanthropic sector—from an appeal centered on the need for corrective contributions to an appeal centered on creative investment.

We are not going to be passive in Washington about promoting that new narrative. There were years in the past when it was somewhat unusual for the Secretary of Education to deliver a commencement address at an HBCU. Last month, I was deeply honored to speak at Xavier’s commencement in New Orleans. But let me tell you—Xavier, I was not such a catch. Thirteen senior administration officials spoke at HBCU commencements this year, including the President and the First Lady. I think that must be some kind of record!

Now, we are not just talking the talk—although we did a lot of that in the last month. The fact is we are walking the walk—and will continue to do so.

In February, Congress enacted the President’s historic Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act. It invests more than $40 billion in Pell Grants to ensure that all eligible students receive an award. And for the first time, those awards will be indexed to keep up with inflation.

To put this legislation in perspective, the new law—coupled with the funding provided in the Recovery Act and the President’s first two budgets—more than doubles the total amount of funding for Pell Grants since President Obama took office. Over the course of the next decade, we project that nearly 60,000 additional Pell Grant awards will go to African-American students—and 21,000 of those Pell Grants will go to students at HBCUs.

Other far-reaching changes in the law are going to make it easier for more than a million borrowers to pay off their student loan debt after they graduate. And I am thrilled that this new law provides HBCUs with $850 million over the next decade in mandatory funding to renew, reform, and expand programs so that all students at these institutions get every chance to rise to their full potential. This legislation will help shape the future of HBCUs for decades to come.

Let me repeat what I said a moment ago: We want to revise the public narrative around HBCUs. It’s a narrative that has been so incomplete, so remiss in celebrating success and creative investment. And right here in North Carolina, the state’s 11 HBCUs are demonstrating the power of collaboration and showing what successful partnerships look like. Last year, North Carolina’s HBCUs enrolled more than 42,000 students and awarded over 6,700 degrees. Those numbers are a powerful testament that the state’s HBCUs are changing the lives of tens of thousands of African-American students for the better.

But North Carolina’s HBCUs have been leaders in other areas as well. To cite one example of innovative collaboration, the North Carolina-SAGE consortium is offering students at the state’s 11 HBCUs the opportunity to study abroad. That program allows students to take advantage of internship opportunities outside the U.S.—and helps prepare students to work for businesses, non-profits, and NGOs. In the era of the global economy, those experiences are invaluable.

The state’s HBCUs have also led the way in showing how to smoothly transition to Direct Lending. Congress enacted the transition to DL earlier this year, and that much-needed transition has literally made it possible to free up tens of billions of dollars to expand financial aid for low-income students that formerly went to subsidize banks. We are determined that this transition will happen smoothly—and we will provide the technical support and training necessary to ensure an orderly switchover. As you know, the department has assigned a special FSA representative to each of the 45 HBCUs transitioning to Direct Lending. I’m pleased to report that all 45 HBCUs are on target for a successful transition.

Here in North Carolina, HBCUs have shown the way. Four of North Carolina’s public HBCU’s have used Direct Lending for over ten years. Three private HBCUs have done so for at least five years. And HBCU’s now transitioning to Direct Lending are meeting their milestones. One of them, Shaw University, is already originating direct loans. North Carolina’s example is showing that direct lending is an effective and student-friendly process for getting funds to students. And with the addition of our simplification of the FASFA form, current high school seniors will have a much easier time applying for financial aid. It was crazy that the form itself had become a barrier to entry—and we were glad to be able to change that in a significant way.

Why is it so important to get these things right? To get more money to students in need, to share best practices in resolving common challenges like retention and financial stability?

The answer to that question is known to everyone in this room. It is the same reason why Booker T. Washington walked 500 miles to the Hampton Institute to receive an education.

The reason for Washington’s long walk is that education is meant to be the great equalizer in America—it doesn’t matter what your race, income or zip code, every child is entitled to a quality education. Education is the civil rights issue of our generation—and institutions of higher education and the government must do everything in their power to help realize the dream of equal educational opportunity.

The fight for civil rights is not a sometime thing. Our administration is working actively to ensure compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and state higher education desegregation plans. We will continue to work with governors and state higher education officials to reach agreement on what must still be done to eliminate the vestiges of formerly segregated systems and enhance our HBCUs. And we will not close any of these cases until the vestiges of state-imposed segregation have been completely eliminated.

I want to address two great challenges for HBCUs as we move ahead. First, I want to see HBCUs taking the lead in improving teacher preparation programs and training a new generation of minority students, especially black males, to teach in our nation’s public schools.

Outside of the HBCU community, not many people know that most HBCUs were established a century ago for the purpose of training a generation of black teachers. Black educators in the South used to have a saying about the importance of teachers. It went: “As is the teacher, so is the school.”

I think our elders were absolutely right. As all of you know, talent matters tremendously in the classroom—and that is why recruiting and training a new generation of great teachers is essential to closing the achievement gap. Ambrose Caliver, the first African-American research specialist hired by the U.S. Office of Education, captured that urgency in a single sentence 75 years ago when he wrote: “In the hands of the Negro teachers rests the destiny of the race.”

Every day, African-American teachers are doing extraordinary work in helping to close the achievement gap. Yet we also know that children of color have too few teachers of color. Nationwide, more than 35 percent of public school students are black or Hispanic, but less than 15 percent of our teachers are black or Latino. It is especially troubling that less than two percent of our nation’s 3.2 million teachers are African-American males. On average, roughly 200,000 new teachers are hired a year in America—and just 4,500 of them are black males. It is not good for any of our country’s children that only one in 50 teachers is a black man.

When I was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, I visited too many elementary schools that did not have a single black male teacher, though most of the students were black and grew up in single-parent families. How can that be a good thing for young children, especially boys? The under-representation of African-American men in the teaching profession is a serious problem. And it is not self-correcting. Our children need you. Your schools of education can, and must, help us solve this national crisis.

Now, it is no secret that I have been critical of the quality of some teacher preparation programs. In a speech I gave last fall at the Teachers College at Columbia University, I urged every teacher education program to make better outcomes for students in the classroom “the overarching mission that propels all their efforts.” I pointed out that only one state in the nation, Louisiana, was tracking and comparing the impact of new teachers from different teacher preparation programs on student achievement over a period of years. Louisiana is using that information to identify effective and ineffective programs for the first time—and teacher education programs are using the student outcome data to revamp and strengthen their programs. This continuous feedback helps children learn more, empowers future teachers with the skills they need, and ultimately benefits the entire state’s educational system.

For example, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette used the data about graduates’ impact on student achievement to increase admission requirements, added a career counseling program to better prepare teachers for the transition to the classroom, and boosted coursework requirements in English language arts. Such real-time feedback is invaluable.

I’m pleased to see that the Carolina Institute for Public Policy at UNC-Chapel Hill completed a study in January of the impact of UNC teacher preparation programs on student learning in North Carolina’s public schools. The Carolina Institute’s study of achievement assessed the impact of teachers from different UNC institutions on student achievement in a range of subjects in more than 143,000 classrooms—after controlling for differences in where, and whom, the teachers teach.

The researchers found that, overall, UNC-prepared teachers were neither better nor worse than teachers prepared in private colleges or alternative certification routes—which they candidly said was “not a sufficiently high standard for UNC programs.”

The Carolina Institute study also found that students of teachers trained at several public HBCUs did worse on math and science assessments in high school and middle school math than teachers in comparable classrooms from other institutions. Yet students of teachers trained at those same institutions did as well or better as their counterparts on assessments of elementary school reading, math, and middle school reading.

I am glad to see my friend Erskine Bowles is here today. He is an outstanding leader, and I commend the UNC system for taking on this rigorous self-scrutiny. With his vision and courage, I’m convinced teacher preparation programs in this state will go to an entirely different level—North Carolina can lead this movement nationally. Just as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has discovered, this kind of data is not to be feared but used. It helps point the way to strengthen programs and link them back to better student learning. It provides fertile ground for sharing of best practices.

The second challenge I would like to see HBCUs take on is the one I began my remarks with: Boosting graduation rates. HBCU graduation rates are significantly lower than those at non-HBCU two-year and four-year institutions. We know this is the case chiefly because HBCUs work with disproportionate numbers of students who need remedial coursework, have significant financial hurdles to overcome, or are the first members in their family to attend college. Individually, and collectively, these are huge challenges.

Yet we also know that institutions matter. Despite obstacles, some HBCUs do a great job of working with at-risk students to help them graduate. Others still have a lot of work to do. Some HBCUs do an excellent job of helping graduates find good jobs; others do not.

In light of the demands of the global economy and the President’s goal for 2020, it is time for every institution of higher education to take stock of where it stands. Every institution should have measurable goals for increased college completion—and create a plan to achieve those goals.

I was so pleased to hear that Walter Kimbrough, the president of Philander Smith College, was here today. He has had a laser-like focus on improving retention and graduation rates since arriving on campus in 2004, especially among African-American males. As a result, the retention rate of first-year students has gone from about 50 percent to 71 percent. The graduation rate has increased from 16 to 24 percent—a 50 percent jump.

Those numbers still aren’t close to where he wants them to be—but they are absolutely moving in the right direction, and doing so quickly. President Kimbrough told the Chronicle of Higher Education recently that HBCUs cannot “just be satisfied with lower graduation rates. We need to hold ourselves accountable.” To quote Smokey Robinson, I second that emotion.

While every institution should be setting measurable goals to boost college completion, collaboration and the sharing of best practices of the sort advanced here in North Carolina is also essential. You may recall that the 1998 Higher Education Act reauthorization required institutions with high student loan default rates to lower their default rates or lose their eligibility for federal student aid. Fourteen HBCUs were at risk of losing eligibility—which would have had a devastating impact on graduation and retention rates. By 2002, 12 of those schools had successfully lowered their default rates.

Now, half of those 14 HBCUs were located in Texas. And the Texas HBCUs formed a consortium that successfully lowered default rates faster and more dramatically than HBCUs not in the consortium. Teamwork helped.

A recent Education Sector study of the Texas HBCU consortium’s collaboration found that consortia schools collectively boosted default aversion management. They worked to develop personal connections with student borrowers. They partnered with outside entities that had expertise in skip tracing. They instituted financial literacy courses and financial aid awareness fairs for students. Simply put their work was comprehensive. Even after controlling for student characteristics, the Education Sector study found that “an institution’s ability to retain and eventually graduate its students emerged as an important factor in determining that institution’s . . .default rate.”

So, yes, this is hard work. But I have tremendous confidence that HBCU’s can elevate graduation rates. HBCUs have overcome greater challenges in the past—whether it was lowering default rates, improving pass rates on the National Teachers Examination, or surviving on a shoestring budget.

I learned long ago an important truth in my mother’s afterschool program on the South Side of Chicago: A high-quality tutoring program can be a good thing, but a high-quality tutoring program run by caring adults is a great thing. It can literally help transform lives.

Despite the challenges they faced growing up in a violent neighborhood, her students just wanted a chance to succeed. To see the extraordinary potential that every child has, no matter where they come from—that is what I learned from my mother’s work as a child—and that is what continues to drive me today. We cannot let any student fall through the cracks, regardless of the obstacles they face to becoming successful.

My mother’s program got by on shoestring budgets too. But it is HBCUs that have pioneered the way in how to do more with less. I am confident that you will continue to thrive and transform lives—not just your students’ lives, but their families’ opportunities for generations to come.

I salute your collaboration here today. And I thank you for your tireless commitment and leadership to make the American dream of equal opportunity a reality. Children only get one chance at an education. The need for reform today is urgent. And as Martin Luther King put it many years ago, we cannot wait.


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Making the Wright Connections

A Special Education Report

By Jerry W. Ward

The Death and Life of the Great American School System

How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education

By Diane Ravitch

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Remarks at Xavier University New Orleans

on the 5th Anniversary of Katrina

 By President Barack Obama

Pedagogy, Policy, and the Privatized City

Stories of Dispossession and Defiance from New Orleans

By Kristen L. Buras, Jim Randels, Kalamu ya Salaam, Students at the Center, Foreword by Robin D.G. Kelley, Afterword by Zeus Leonardo

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The White Architects of Black Education

Ideology and Power in America, 1865-1954

By William Watkins

William H. Watkins is subtle in his story of the “white architects” who developed Black education beginning in 1865, just at the end of the Civil War. Watkins shocks you with his “scientific racism” platform that he explains “presented human difference as the rational for inequality” and that it “can be understood as an ideological and political issue” (pg. 39). The reader senses a calm attitude about the author as he speaks of the philanthropists, beginning with John D. Rockefeller, Sr, who was most concerned about “shaping the new industrial social order” (pg. 133) than he was for providing a useful education. “The Rockefeller group demonstrated how gift giving could shape education and public policy” (pg. 134).

 In their support of Black education, by 1964, the General Education Board (GEB) spent more than $3.2 million dollars in gifts to support Black education. This captivating book begins with a foreword written by Robin D.G. Kelley who reflects that he learned one lesson from Watkins, “If we are to create new models of pedagogy and intellectual work and become architects of our own education, then we cannot simply repair the structures that have been passed down to us. We need to dismantle the old architecture so that we might begin anew” (pg. xiii). Why don’t the school reformers who mandate educational laws experience such an awakening?—Review by AC Snow

Source: Cre3Design

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HBCU Funding Press Releases:

David McNally (Research, Development and Engineering Command Public Affairs): In a May 10 signing ceremony at Morgan State University in Baltimore, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, and Morgan State University President Earl S. Richardson sign a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement.

Maryland Alliance Formed to Meet State’s Growing Health Care Needs: Following the passage of landmark health reform, the nation’s health care system requires more health professionals–especially primary and preventive care professionals in urban and rural communities–at a time of rapid and diverse population growth. A new academic partnership is aimed at tackling the crisis. The Maryland Alliance to Transform the Health Professions is designed to directly contribute to addressing the state’s growing health care needs and at the same time, provide a working model for other states also committed to expanding and diversifying their health workforce. Representatives from Maryland’s academic health institutions and historically black colleges and universities will come together for a formal signing of the Memorandum of Understanding which will mark the official formation of the Maryland Alliance. Please see the Bowie State University Press Release for more information about this event.

Department of Energy Awards $9 Million in Grants for Science and Technical Research to Historically Black Colleges and Universities in South Carolina and Georgia.

North Carolina – Fayetteville State University: One million dollar public computer center grant with an additional $263,000 applicant-provided match to provide 30 new computer workstations, wireless Internet access, and training courses at a new public computer center for the Fayetteville, North Carolina community, including residents of local public housing. The project will include courses on Internet basics, personal finance and health, and basic job skills. The first 50 users to complete all of these courses will receive a laptop computer for home use. This project will be led by Fayetteville State University, a Historically Black University, in partnership with the Fayetteville Metropolitan Housing Authority and other organizations that will provide training targeted to the needs of low-income persons.


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National HBCU conference in Washington, DC

About the Conference

The White House Initiative Office is coordinating a national conference celebrating National Historically B lack Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Week.  President Barack Obama is scheduled to issue a proclamation honoring America’s HBCUs, designating August 30 – September 5, 2009 as National HBCU Week.  In addition, the Congress will recognize the celebration of HBCU Week by issuing a resolution honoring the significant contributions made by these institutions to our nation’s growth. The theme for this year’s conference is HBCUs:  Yes We Can! 

What We Do for America’s HBCUs

The mission of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities staff is to execute the federal government’s goal of enhancing the academic mission of our nation’s HBCUs. The staff of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities has five primary objectives:

• Strengthen the capacity of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to expedite their mission of teaching, research and public service.

• Serve as an effective advocate for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

• Identify HBCUs’ contributions to American society and enhance opportunities to attract funding from federal and private sources.

• Encourage collaborations and partnerships among HBCUs and other organizations to increase the effectiveness of federal and private funding.

• Encourage corporations, not-for-profits and individuals to form or strengthen partnerships to improve “overall financial stability and academic program development” at America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.


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President Obama Signs Executive Order Promoting Excellence, Innovation and Sustainability

at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (February 26, 2010)

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama signed an executive order (which can be viewed here), renewing the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the White House East Room.  This event demonstrates the President’s strong appreciation for the historic role these institutions have played in educating our citizens and the Administration’s commitment to assisting HBCUs with accomplishing their mission.

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have made historic and ongoing contributions to the general welfare and prosperity of our country.  Established by visionary leaders, America’s HBCUs have, for over 150 years, produced many of the Nation’s leaders in business, government, academia, and the military and have provided generations of American men and women with hope and educational opportunity. 

The Nation’s 105 HBCUs are located in 20 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and serve more than 300,000 undergraduate and graduate students.  These institutions continue to be important engines of economic growth and community service, and they are proven ladders of intergenerational advancement for men and women of all ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds, especially African-Americans

Source: Press Release

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National Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Week

 Examining the Modern Relevance of the HBCU

By Abel Pharmboy

September 3, 2009

In the United States, this is currently National HBCU Week (presidential proclamation here) and yesterday marked the end of the annual academic conference on HBCUs (“Seizing the Capacity to Thrive!”) in Washington, DC. HBCUs span from Michigan and Ohio to Texas, Florida, and the US Virgin Islands – see here for the complete list and links to HBCUs. . . .

As a Yankee born the same year as the passage of US Civil Rights Act, I had not truly appreciated that African Americans, particularly in the South, had traditionally not been welcome at colleges and universities. As a result, the African American community, sometimes supported by non-black supporters, had to establish their own universities as it was recognized that education was one path to equality. In fact, while nearly all HBCUs are south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the original HBCUs were in Pennsylvania (what is now Cheyney University (1837) and Lincoln University (1854)) and Ohio (Wilberforce University (1856)) and were established by the generosity of Quaker, Episcopalian, and other abolitionist supporters.

I’m still embarrassed by my ignorance back then, in part because my Northeastern high school history classes usually began with the Industrial Revolution and the challenges faced by my post-Civil War, Eastern European immigrant ancestors.

So, I was happy to learn that since 1980, this second week of September (but this first week in 2009) has been designated by the White House as National HBCU Week:

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed Executive Order 12232, which established a Federal program “. . . to overcome the effects of discriminatory treatment and to strengthen and expand the capacity of historically black colleges and universities to provide quality education.” Each President since that time has subsequently issued an Executive Order on HBCUs, with President George W. Bush signing Executive Order 13256, Feb. 12, 2002. (Bush’s 2008 proclamation can be found here in PDF). . . .

Each year about this time, the US Department of Education sponsors a week-long conference in Washington, DC, with specific themes: in 2008, it was HBCUs: Established to Meet a Need, Evolving with the Times, Essential for Today and Tomorrow and in 2009 it’s Seizing the Capacity to Thrive!.

The theme implies a harsh reality: that some HBCUs are struggling financially and are fighting to redefine their missions as highly-qualified African Americans now have their pick of the 4,000 or so US colleges and universities. But the continued value of HBCUs is undeniable as pointed out by Michelle J Nealy in Diverse Issues in Higher Education:

While HBCUs represent only 3 percent of all colleges and universities, they enroll close to one-third of all Black students. Forty percent of HBCU students pursue four-year degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, and about half of all Black students in teaching fields attended HBCUs. Three-quarters of all African-American Ph.D.s did their undergraduate studies at an HBCU, and, according to a study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, the total economic impact of the nation’s HBCUs in 2001 was $10.2 billion.

Another interesting note I learned from Rochelle Rush is that, “Spelman College and Bennett College produce over half of the nation’s African American female doctorates in all science fields.”

But to go back further, HBCUs played an essential role in the health care of African Americans. The now-defunct Leonard Medical School and School of Pharmacy at Shaw University trained over 400 black physicians between 1881 and 1918, some of whom went on as founders of other universities and all whom addressed the critical role of health care in underserved populations across the Jim Crow South. (Incidentally, Shaw is the oldest HBCU in the South having been founded in 1865 by an ex-Union Army chaplain, Rev Dr Henry Martin Tupper, who returned from Massachusetts with other Northern teachers to establish an educational institution for emancipated slaves. The institution is named after a New England philanthropist, Elijah Shaw.)

Source: Scienceblogs

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Medical History

A Medical School for African Americans in 19th Century North Carolina

On the evening of March 31, 1886, a crowd of predominantly black Raleigh citizens joined students, faculty, and invited guests of Shaw University at the first commencement ceremonies of Leonard Medical School. The six young men comprising the graduating class sat on the platform with their medical professors and the rest of the university faculty and received their degrees. Keynote speaker Eugene Grissom, M.D., superintendent of the North Carolina Insane Asylum in Raleigh (later called Dorothea Dix Hospital), treated the occasion with the same seriousness and earnestness he would have given a white medical school graduation. Not once did he allude to the uniqueness of this commencement or to the race of the young physicians being honored.

It was L.A. Scruggs of Liberty, VA, the class valedictorian and soon-to-be resident physician at Leonard Hospital, who brought home that message to an audience that did not really need reminding. “We who stand before you tonight are pioneers of the medical profession of our race,” he announced in an oration entitled “Medical Education as a Factor in the Elevation of the Colored Race.” Over the next 32 years some 400 more black men would attend similar ceremonies at Shaw, and then begin the practice of medicine, generally in black communities around the Southeast. . . .

On November 12, 1893, Shaw University and Leonard Medical School marked the end of an era: the Reverend Henry M. Tupper died after 28 years of service to the institution he had founded. His successor was Charles Francis Meserve, a 44-year-old New Englander with 12 years experience as superintendent of Haskell Institute, a large Indian industrial training school in Lawrence, KS. Meserve found financial matters at Shaw in an alarming state and put the school’s trustees and the Home Mission Society on notice that he would not jeopardize Shaw’s existence for the sake of the medical, law, and pharmacy schools.

Other Southern black schools found themselves facing similarly bad situations. By the late 1880s and 1890s the strong sense of mission that had stimulated and sustained Northern interest in the welfare of former slaves was waning. Black migration to Northern towns and new interests in caring for the larger numbers of European immigrants in the Northern United States also contributed to a declining concern for Southern blacks. Furthermore, money had become tighter during the economic turmoil of the 1890s.

Times were changing for medicine as well. Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch had proven that microbes caused disease, ushering in the era of bacteriology. German scientists had moved medicine into the laboratory, from which they were reporting exciting developments in pathology, physiology, immunology, and microbiology. Innovative surgery was being performed. Furthermore, medical educators felt that the rapid, uncontrolled proliferation of proprietary medical schools, which had been occurring since the Civil War, had to be reversed. The American Medical Association and individual state boards of medical examiners now strove to increase the standards of medical education.

In the periodic inspections that the AMA made after 1904, Leonard always received C ratings. The school tried desperately to keep up with the changing standards. Terms were lengthened gradually from four to eight months, laboratories were upgraded and new ones built, microscopes were purchased, admissions requirements were raised, more faculty and courses were added, and finally in 1911 a new, modern hospital was constructed. But still, at the core, lack of money wore Leonard down. Rockefeller’s General Education Board saw Meharry, a bigger, more dynamic black medical school in Nashville, TN, and Howard, more visible in Washington and possessing better facilities, as the logical recipients of its largesse in the area of black medical education.

At the end of the 1914 term, Leonard Medical School closed the newly built Leonard Hospital and reduced its program to a two-year basic science curriculum. No individual or organization was ever willing to step in and support the school monetarily. Leonard needed an endowment and operating capital to pay professors, buy equipment, maintain teaching and clinical laboratories, and provide for the other usual expenses of a modern medical school. Instead, the school drew off funds from the rest of the university, impeding, indeed reversing, the growth of the larger institution.

Meserve felt he had to close Leonard to save Shaw. He could hang on no longer. So in 1918, having satisfied a need for some 36 years, Leonard Medical School closed its doors forever.

A fuller version of the Leonard story by Todd L. Savitt, appeared in “The Education of Physicians at Shaw University, 1882-1918: Problems of Quality and Quantity,” in Jeffrey Crow and Flora J. Hatley eds., Black Americans in North Carolina and the South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984, 160-188).

Source: East Carolina University

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Lessons Learned from

‘Setting the Agenda for Historically Black Colleges and Universities’

By Dr. Marybeth Gasman


June 8, 2010

Last week in Durham, N.C., a wonderful symposium took place. It was not business as usual but, instead, an honest look at the future of HBCUs. Although I was one of the speakers, I sat through all the sessions (which brought everyone together in one room) and took about 40 pages of notes.

As a researcher, I had many, many ideas going through my head. I thought I’d share some of the lessons that the speakers had for those of us who care about the future of HBCUs. Here are some points that were made:

The emphasis at HBCUs needs to go from access to retention and increased graduation rates.

HBCUs need to produce the knowledge workers of our nation; increasing their production of more students in the STEM fields.

HBCUs have a lot that they can teach majority institutions and should be leading the way in terms of educating African-American students.

HBCUs need to take control of the “narrative” about HBCUs and make it more success-oriented and positive. More HBCU leaders need to be leading the charge and be visible on a national stage.

HBCUs need to be out in front when it comes to educating more African-American males to be teachers. Less than 2 percent of teachers are Black males, and HBCUs need to help solve this problem. They have the tools and the legacy.

Data are not to be feared but are to be used to strengthen HBCUs. A fear of criticism must be overcome. If HBCU leaders don’t confront their challenges, others, who have little contextual knowledge, will do it for them.

HBCU leaders are not asking for anything special. They want parity with historically White institutions.

Faculty members are the fabric of an institution, and HBCUs need to take care of their faculty, creating positive environments for young Black faculty, in particular.

There is a leadership crisis at HBCUs. Leaders of HBCUs have the responsibility of creating new leaders who can take the lead in the future.

A strong faculty that wants to participate in shared governance is not the enemy of HBCU leaders; it is a partner.

HBCUs must create a niche; they cannot be all things to all people. HBCUs should be able to answer the questions: What’s our niche?  What are our signature programs?

HBCUs need to train their students to solve society’s problems and problems that have a direct impact on Black communities throughout the nation.

HBCUs have taken their market share for granted. In a post-Civil Rights era, students have institutional choices, and they are making them

Although some of these lessons are hard to swallow, they are very good food for thought. All HBCU leaders should think about them as they move their institutions forward. 

Dr. Gasman, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, is the author of Envisioning Black Colleges: A History of the United Negro College Fund (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007) and lead editor of “Understanding Minority Serving Institutions” (SUNY Press, 2008).

Source: Diverse Education

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ReShone L. Moore, Ph.D., serves as a Management and Program Analyst with the U.S. Department of Education, the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). In this position, Dr. Moore is charged with ensuring successful implementation of Presidential Executive Order 13256.  She is the conference coordinator for the National HBCU Week Conference, a national event that brings together over 1000 representatives including presidents and chancellors, from the HBCU community, federal agencies, corporations and foundations, to participate in discussions that examine issues critical to the Black college community. 

Dr. Moore is also responsible for coordinating the activities of the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.—DCAlcornites

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HBCUs and Higher Education: Beyond the Iron Triangle—Remarks of Arne Duncan to 2009 National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Conference—September 2, 2009—Long before researchers documented that non-cognitive skills were often as important in determining success as book smarts, HBCUs devoted special attention to forming the character and habits of mind that helped students succeed. As an 18-year old at Morehouse College, Martin Luther King Jr. put it this way in the Maroon Tiger, the campus newspaper: “Intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”

During their first half-century, HBCUs were far more prescriptive about student conduct and character than other institutions of higher education—so much so that scholars have described the early African-American leaders of HBCUs as “Black Victorians” and “Ebony Puritans.” W.E.B DuBois, who attended Harvard after his years at Fisk, later said that “At Fisk, we had character dinned into our ears. At Harvard we never mentioned it.”

As decades passed, HBCUs inevitably became less prescriptive about student decorum. Yet even today when a freshman arrives at Morehouse College he gets “The Speech.” It’s the same speech that Martin Luther King heard, that Maynard Jackson listened to, that Spike Lee absorbed. And the speech is about what it means to be a Morehouse Man.

The president of Morehouse tells those excited and nervous freshmen about how they are to comport themselves on and off campus. He tells them of the expectation that they will excel and display ethical leadership—and go on to give something back to society. Just last April, at a college town hall meeting, Dr. Robert Franklin, Morehouse’s current president, told students that “Morehouse men must be so sensitive to the presence of disorder, mediocrity and injustice that they cannot sleep well at night until they tip the scale toward justice.”

Now I can confirm that what W.E.B. DuBois wrote 60 years ago about Fisk and Harvard is still true. There still is no speech at Harvard about what it means to be a Harvard man, there still is no admonition to be impatient with mediocrity and social injustice.

Of course, in the modern era, HBCU students have much more freedom than their predecessors. But as Michael Lomax of the United Negro College Fund has pointed out, a new generation of gap-closing secondary schools in urban areas has in fact adopted wholesale the HBCU model of emphasizing both cognitive and non-cognitive skills.

High-performing schools like the University Park Campus School in Worcester, Massachusetts, the KIPP school network, Urban Prep in Chicago, and the Achievement First schools all carefully prescribe student conduct. They celebrate both good schoolwork and good character. At Amistad Academy in New Haven, a school motto that could be torn straight from the HBCU playbook is “We sweat the small stuff.”

And these gap-closing schools learned one last lesson from HBCU’s about boosting minority achievement. They learned that a teacher can be a prescriptive and strong mentor as long as students know that he or she cares deeply about the student’s development and provides the one-on-one attention that all our students’ need. As a child, I learned in my mother’s afterschool program that a good tutoring program is a good thing. But a good tutoring program with a caring adult is a great thing. It can literally change the course of a child’s life.

Now we all know that colleges and universities are not going to go back to the days where college administrators enforced parietal rules and visiting privileges in dorms. But the basic insight that non-cognitive skills matter is still true—and it’s just as relevant at research universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges as at HBCUs.

Source: Education gov News


Under a third of men at black colleges earn degree in 6 years

By Justin Pope, Associated Press

Memphis—They’re no longer the only option for African-American students, but the country’s historically black colleges and universities brag that they provide a supportive environment where these students are more likely to succeed.

That, though, is not necessarily true.

An Associated Press analysis of government data on the 83 federally designated four-year historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) shows just 37% of their black students finish a degree within six years. That’s 4 percentage points lower than the national college graduation rate for black students.

One major reason: the struggles of black men. Just 29% of HBCU males complete a bachelor’s degree within six years, the AP found.

A few HBCUs, like Howard and all-female Spelman, have much higher graduation rates, exceeding the national averages for both black and white students. But others are clustered among the worst-performing colleges in the country. At 38 HBCUs, fewer than one in four men who started in 2001 had completed a bachelor’s degree by 2007, the data show. At Texas Southern, Voorhees, Edward Waters and Miles College, the figure was under 10%.

To be sure, women are outperforming men across education, and many non-HBCUs struggle with low graduation rates. And the rates don’t account for students who transfer or take more than six years, which may be more common at HBCUs than at other schools.

Most importantly, HBCUs educate a hugely disproportionate share of low-income students. Compared to other colleges defined by the government as “low-income serving,” HBCU graduation rates are just a few points lower. Factoring in obstacles like lower levels of academic preparation, some research suggests that HBCUs do as well with black students as do majority-white institutions.

Still, HBCUs’ low completion rates, especially for men, have broad consequences, on and off campus.

Women account for more than 61% of HBCU students, the AP found. They have unprecedented leadership opportunities, but also pay a price—in everything from one-sided classroom discussions to competition for dates.

HBCUs educate only one-quarter of black college students, but produce an outsized number of future black graduate students and leaders. That group is distinctly female; HBCUs award twice as many degrees to women as to men.

The good news is some HBCUs are working hard to boost graduation rates—and succeeding. Experts say that proves failure isn’t inevitable—but also means it’s fair to ask tough questions of schools that are not improving.

HBCUs receive more than half their revenue from government. There is growing frustration with the waste of money—for students and taxpayers—when students have nothing to show for their time in college. President Barack Obama wants to return the United States to the top rank of college attainment by 2020. That will never happen if the colleges that do the heavy lifting of educating disadvantaged groups don’t perform better.

Even some within the tight-knit HBCU community say the schools bear some responsibility. They say too many HBCUs have grown content offering students a chance at college, but resisting the hard work to get them through. . . .

Source: USA Today

posted 9 September 2010 

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Men We Love, Men We Hate  / Ways of Laughing (Kalamu ya Salaam)

The State of HBCUs for Black Students & Faculty  / From HBCUs to BCUs  /  HBCUs & Black Educators  /  State of HBCU Archives

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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #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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It’s The Middle Class Stupid!

By James Carville and Stan Greenberg

It’s the Middle Class, Stupid! confirms what we have all suspected: Washington and Wall Street have really screwed things up for the average American. Work has been devalued. Education costs are out of sight. Effort and ambition have never been so scantily rewarded. Political guru James Carville and pollster extraordinaire Stan Greenberg argue that our political parties must admit their failures and the electorate must reclaim its voice, because taking on the wealthy and the privileged is not class warfare—it is a matter of survival. Told in the alternating voices of these two top political strategists, It’s the Middle Class, Stupid! provides eye-opening and provocative arguments on where our government—including the White House—has gone wrong, and what voters can do about it. 

Controversial and outspoken, authoritative and shrewd, It’s the Middle Class, Stupid! is destined to make waves during the 2012 presidential campaign, and will set the agenda for legislative battles and political dust-ups during the next administration.

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America.

This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”

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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.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

By Derrick Bell

In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school’s hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell’s fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard’s president and all of the school’s black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination.

Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell’s And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.—Publishers Weekly

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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 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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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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Negro Digest / Black World

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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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update 12 July 2012




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