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From Swastika to Jim Crow


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Historically Black Colleges and Universities Pages: 1 | 2

Tougaloo College
Courtesy Tougaloo College
Public Institutions during Jim Crow
Private missionary colleges figured so heavily in the overall scheme of higher education for African Americans because various states virtually excluded Blacks from publicly supported higher education. Of the 17 Southern states that mandated racially segregated education during the Jim Crow era, 14 simply refused to establish land-grant colleges for African American students until Congress required them to do so in the 1890. But the institutions they established were colleges in name only. Not one met the land-grant requirement to teach agriculture, mechanical arts and liberal education on a collegiate level.

Black Institutions and Desegregation
With the founding of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) in 1944, Black colleges and universities enlisted the support of corporate philanthropy and the donations of thousands of individuals. African Americans also continued to press for equality in public higher education their efforts encouraged by the Supreme Court decision in Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada in 1938, which forced Southern state governments to concede more resources for the improvement of African American higher education than at any time since the Reconstruction era.

During the early 1950s, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) turned its efforts from educational equality to school desegregation. Its work culminated successfully in the Sweatt v. Painter (1950) and Brown v. Board of Education (1954) desegregation decisions, although these decisions had little direct effect on Black colleges.

This success in the courts sparked a new optimism about the future of African American higher education. But during the last four decades of the 20th century, that optimism was tempered by the endurance of old problems. Private colleges and universities had not built up a solid financial base. At the start of new millennium, raising money remains the major challenge for a Black college president or chancellor. Private Black colleges are struggling to keep their funding sources viable and to fight off financial starvation in an increasingly competitive environment. Public Black colleges are fighting to obtain their fair share of state support, and this struggle is greatly compromised by inaction and resistance from state legislatures.

In 1992 the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Fordice that patterns of racial segregation still remained in Mississippišs public university system, nearly 40 years after Brown v. Board of Education The slow elimination of segregation has in general had mixed blessings for Black colleges and universities, as integrated White institutions have drawn Black students and support away from the traditional Black schools. But after stagnating enrollments in the 1970s and 1980s, the student population at HBCUs rose 25 percent between 1986 and 1994, an increase greater than the average for U.S. colleges and universities.

Source: "Colleges and Universities, Historically Black, in the United States" by James D. Anderson at


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