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A Long, Protracted Struggle

A Long, Protracted Struggle

The long and protracted struggle to bring Black colleges up to speed with their White counterparts is one of those stories that just will not go away. And why should it given the fact that higher education so effectively mirrors our society as a whole. As long as there are disparities in every other aspect of the social and economic fabric of society, the academy will not be spared.
What is not mentioned, but is sure to be on the minds of many in positions of power, is that HBCUs provide reminders that are too visible and too taxing on our collective psyche about our unresolved legacy of separate but equal systems of education.
So here were are in 2001 with issues that this country fought one of the bloodiest wars over still haunting us.
The federal role in all of this dates back to the Dred Scott decision. So it is very significant that the desegregation lawsuits addressing these historic inequities have all been recently settled or are in the process of being settled by the federal government. The feds have basically thrown in the towel on this one and will leave it up to the states to figure out how to resolve the issues. Black Issues correspondent Lydia Lum asks whether following the settlement of most of these cases by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and the
Democrats, before they left office, if Black colleges will flounder in the post-election dust (see story, page 32).
The inescapable truth is that the country needs its Black colleges. Our annual “Top 100” editions make it abundantly clear that without them we would see a precipitous drop in college-educated African Americans, especially in engineering and the sciences.
In addition to our cover story, this edition features two articles about African American art. New associate editor Robin V. Smiles
interviewed Paul R. Jones, an
Atlanta-based collector of African American art who recently donated his extensive collection to the
University of Delaware. In his agreement with the university, he has stipulated that Delaware must collaborate with HBCUs so that the students, faculty and staff at those institutions will also benefit from his collection, which he hopes will serve as a teaching tool (see story, page 24).
And a lesson in Black history has produced an interesting and sobering collection of African American art. After discovering that Confederate states circulated money that displayed its most
valuable commodities — slaves and cotton — South Carolina artist John W. Jones was inspired to document history and has since produced 29 oil paintings, which are featured in an exhibit titled “Depictions of Slavery in Confederate and Southern States: Confederate Currency — The Color of Money.” The exhibit is currently on display at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston (see story, page 28).
As we near the end of March, Women’s History Month, we want to give kudos to Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which recently received a record gift of $360 million — the largest gift ever given to a single U.S. college or university (see story, page 14). Dr. Gloria Scott, president of Bennett College in North Carolina, will celebrate the contributions and history of Black female college presidents at an
upcoming symposium in April, which will include Dr. Johnnetta Cole, former president of Spelman College and Dr. Niara Sudarkasa, former president of Lincoln University — all named president of these HBCUs in 1987.
And lastly, but certainly not least, the staff at Black Issues In Higher Education would like another African American female pioneer in higher education, Dr. Carol D. Surles, formerly president of Texas Woman’s University, and currently president of Eastern Illinois University, to know that she’s in our thoughts and prayers for a fast recovery. 

Hilary Hurd

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