“I think 2020 has changed everything. Then everyone really started to rely on black institutions, which raised people’s levels of consciousness,” said Walter M. Kimbrough, the president of Dillard University in New Orleans and author of “Black Greek 101: The Culture, Customs and Challenges.” of black fraternities and sororities.”
HBCU’s profile was also raised by the presidential campaign and eventual election of Howard University graduate vice president Kamala Harris. When Ms. Harris ran for president nearly two years ago, she told me during the campaign that the subject of Howard came up often in interviews, giving her the opportunity to talk about her alma mater, which she referred to as “the Mecca.” . ” from HBCUs
Ms. Harris was recently the keynote speaker at Tennessee State University and her speech distilled the legacy of HBCUs. She told the story of her maiden voyage on Marine Two, the vice president’s helicopter, as it circled over Howard University.
“When I looked down the window, I saw myself at age 17 walking across campus with a big pile of books under my arms, in a place like this,” she told the graduating class. “That reinforced that I could be anything, do anything, even if it had never been done before.”
HBCUs were born of denial more than 150 years ago, the majority of which were created after the Civil War to educate generations of black Americans at a time when they were often unwelcome in white institutions. There are campuses all over the country, but especially in the south. Over the decades, every addition to the depictions of HBCUs in the cultural space has helped shape how we talk about and understand race, higher education, and identity.
Some of the earliest depictions of black collegiate life can be found in late 19th-century American literature, including the 1899 novel “Imperium in Imperio” by Sutton E. Griggs, in which the main character attends the fictional Stowe University in Nashville. The narrator of Ralph Ellison’s seminal 1952 novel “Invisible Man” attended a school modeled on the Tuskegee Institute – a school Ellison attended when it was called the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. And Alice Walker’s 1976 ‘Meridian’, about a young woman’s introduction to the civil rights movement, takes place at the fictional Saxon College, modeled on Spelman, where Walker studied for two years.
But now, Mr. Packer said, HBCUs are “part of the conversation in a whole different way,” enjoying a notoriety they never had. “Obviously these institutions exist and they are real.”