HBCUs were created during a time of segregation when Black students couldn’t attend the universities that were designated for Whites only. Though segregation was over a century ago, the perception stills lingering around historical black colleges and universities. There’s much debate on who was the first historical black colleges and universities but what remains the same is the irrational differences and separation from other major universities or predominantly white institutions. One major difference between HBCUs and PWIs are the alumni. The alumni at PWIs are more willing to donate to their university which ultimately helps the college grow and become sustainable.
For example, we can take two universities from the historic Third Ward in Houston, Texas that are literally separated by just a street. The Houston Colored Junior College, currently Texas Southern University (TSU), was created in 1927 when the Houston Public School Board created a college for whites, University of Houston (UH), and one for African Americans. Both universities turned into private four-year institutions, but one of the colleges gained wealth while the other received land in return due to a “Texas hero”, Hugh Roy Cullen. Cullen is known as an oil boom leader that turned into a millionaire. He was the main contributor to the development of TSU and UH, but there’s something that sticks out to what he provided to each institution. Cullen presented UH with funding and “donated 53 acres of land located in the Third Ward” to TSU. The meaning behind the donations shows that during this time period Cullen felt like “White people should be supported for success, and black folks were meant to fend for themselves in another part of town.”
As the years went by, we still see evidence that HBCUs are still struggling financially and to keep their doors open. If you were to ask one of the UH students “do they know where TSU is located”, they would not be able to answer the question though it’s just two miles of walking distance. Both universities are located in Third Ward which was once full of African Americans with a developing community, but UH would not dare to claim Third Ward. It feels like the culture at UH does not want anything to do with the community that surrounds them, but only if it gains them more donations. This pushes gentrification which has already started in the Third Ward community eliminating homes, local businesses, and maybe the local HBCU that holds the community together.
Cameron Leavitt, a UH freshmen, expressed his thoughts on the segregation that is still apparent at UH detailing that “we need to abandon the desire to keep Third Ward alive for our own ends and resolve the conditions that allow for the abuse of Third Ward in the first place.” Attending these universities, some students notice the culture differences on each campus and this “should fuel our desires to move forward and improve the status quo.”
Again, when we realize that coming together as a community will benefit everyone and help sustain both universities and the entire community surrounding them. Until we understand this then we will constantly since the division and segregation after 150 years still present today.
Originally blogged on Campus Lately