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History Matters

Dr. James Minor puts forth a flawed premise about the value of historically Black colleges and universities in the April 5 “Last Word” (see “Success of HBCUs Means Looking Forward, Not Backwards”).

He seems to question the rationale of having higher education institutions focus on a specific segment of our society. Absent from his essay, however, are questions about other institutions that perform the same function, such as Brigham Young University (Mormon-oriented), Notre Dame and Georgetown universities (Catholic-oriented), Yeshiva University (Hebrew-oriented) and others. All of these are very fine universities that provide an excellent academic experience for their students — but they do more: They are legitimate, effective repositories of the history and culture of a specific segment of our diverse society.

HBCUs make a similar contribution to our nation by making their diversity a strength, enriching us all. HBCUs should not be required to justify their existence any more than any other specially oriented institution of higher education.

Finally, in his essay, Dr. Minor appears to especially question the value of public HBCUs. These institutions, while focusing on the educational needs of African-American students, are open (and have been open for decades) to White students and to students from other racial and ethnic groups.

Many of us believe that HBCUs should be commended for their continuing educational contributions to America’s Black community and to the education of the nation as a whole.

— Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, Chairman, President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities

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