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Tue Sep 25, 2018, 12:49 PM


A Concise History of the Repression of Black Protest at HBCUs

The greatest thing about HBCUs are the toiling students fighting for justice on these campuses. Not the college presidents, boards of trustees, the administrators, teachers, or coaches. It is the students who, under adversity of both institutional racism and the duplicity of some who minister to them, claiming to be role models, perennially rise above nonsense and develop a historical awareness of the dynamics of empowerment and self-reliance.

HBCUs like to market themselves as having produced the student activists that formed the modern Black freedom movement. This is a patriotic and conservative discourse in post-civil rights America. This obscures how historically HBCUs have repressed students and calls for democratic accountability on their own campuses. Students have grown to understand, in their historical rebellions against Black college presidents and administrators, that as a social class, these are not role models or heroic people. Instead they are agents of subordination and degradation. HBCUs often reproduce elites to collaborate with institutional racism and keep everyday Blacks down and disoriented.

One elder chair of a Black Studies department once told me, “there are many things you can do in terms of political education and organizing at a historically Black college. The one thing you will not be permitted to do is oppose the Black college president.” And yet, any struggle for democracy (majority rule) must strive to take away power from the minority who rules above institutions and society, or such organizing is merely a cultural decoration that makes those who rule yawn and maintain the disposition of mild amusement.

At their origin, HBCUs were created with two contradictory purposes. After Reconstruction (1865-1877) HBCUs produced a Black political class to contain the grassroots and popular mobilization of Black sharecroppers and domestic servants that continue to disorient Black toilers. HBCUs also were created by sincere Black church-folk with a faith-based mission genuinely concerned with self-reliance.

Black Agenda Report Dr. Matthew Quest

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