An HBCU grad galvanized voters in Georgia and another one is making history as vice president-elect #Breaking112
Students and alumni from HBCUs around the country are celebrating the vice president-elect’s success, hoping it will change the misconceptions around the institutions’ quality of education and graduates’ social mobility.
But she’s only one of several female politicians and activists who have become trailblazers, years after attending HBCUs. Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, attended Spelman College in Atlanta and Keisha Lance Bottoms, the Atlanta Mayor and a surrogate for the Biden-Harris campaign, went to Florida A&M University.
It should not be a surprise that HBCUs students and alumni, like Harris and Abrams, are at the forefront of politics and social justice, said Robert Stephens, founder of the HBCU collective, an advocacy group aiming to increase support of Black higher education institutions.
“The spirit of we’re going to be great, we’re going to succeed, we’re going to be successful flows through HBCUs as well as this sense of belonging to a greater purpose,” Stephens said.
But the impact of HBCUs goes beyond politics. For Marilyn Griffin, a high school teacher in Detroit, Michigan, attending an HBCU helped shape the person and educator she is now.
“I found a really big part of myself there, including self awareness and confidence that I didn’t get growing up,” said Griffin, 39, a graduate of Florida A&M University.
Griffin says her interest in African American history grew while attending college and ultimately she decided to pursue a career in education. Now, she constantly encourages all of her students to learn about their heritage and culture.
“Every kid deserves to know where they come from no matter where they come from,” she said.
HBCUs have produced notable alumni over the years while struggling for funding and facing stigma about not being able to prepare students “for the real world.”
Stephens, a Winston-Salem State University alumnus, said he disagrees with people who believe HBCUs don’t have a rigorous education.
“When I think about my experience at an HBCU, it was one where I was nourished,” Stephens said. “I was free to be a Black man in America and that has been probably one of the most uplifting things I’ve ever experienced.”
School administrators could be tapping Harris to help cultivate close ties to the Biden administration as HBCUs across the US have less financial security than predominantly White institutions.
Within both public and private sectors, HBCU endowments lag behind PWIs by at least 70%, according to a recent report by the American Council on Education.
As Biden and Harris prepare to take office next year, Robinson, the Winston-Salem State University chancellor offered some advise.
“Continue to think about us. Continue to have conversations with us and continue to listen to what our needs are, as we move forward,” Robinson told WXII.