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The intellectual tradition of historically Black colleges and universities

We wanted to extend a special welcome to the students from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) studying with various colleges at the University of Utah this summer. As part of that visit, the J. Willard Marriott Library's communications staff spoke with HBCU coordinator Dr. Rodney Cohen to learn more about the intellectual tradition of HBCUs and their unique role in American higher education. Be sure to check out the titles Cohen mentions as well as the newly acquired titles listed at the end of this post.

Q&A with Rodney Cohen

How did you develop these HBCU partnerships?

Our first partnership, under the direction of President Taylor Randall in 2020 (then the dean of the David Eccles School of Business) forged a relationship with the president of Howard University and an arrangement was established to identify talented Howard students who would be recruited by local Salt Lake City companies to intern for the summer, students would reside on the University of Utah’s campus, forming a cohort while working at their respective internships. Since, the program—now known as HCBU IMPACT at the U—has grown to include other HBCUs such as Morehouse, Prairie View A&M, North Carolina Central and Morgan State. In addition, other partnership programs have come online at the U to include students from Howard, North Carolina A&T and Alcorn State. These programs include the biomedical sciences, the [Spencer Fox Eccles] School of Medicine and the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Currently, relationships are being explored throughout the university to expand our partnerships which will also include faculty exchange and research collaboration. Some of the institutions under consideration include Tuskegee University, Florida A&M and Saint Augustine’s University

What’s the significance of the partnerships?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), “Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are institutions that were established prior to 1964 with the principal mission of educating Black Americans. These institutions were founded and developed in an environment of legal segregation and, by providing access to higher education, they contributed substantially to the progress Black Americans made in improving their status.”

Currently, there are 107 HBCUs that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. These institutions existed as early as the 1830s, with the first degree-granting college—Lincoln University—being established in Pennsylvania in 1854. Such graduates as Thurgood Marshall, Langston Hughes and the first presidents of independent Ghana and Nigeria were graduates of Lincoln. Other HBCUs have produced a long legacy of change agents and intellectuals in America (and the world) such as W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Nikki Giovanni and John Lewis.

What books do you recommend for people to learn more about HBCUs?

One of my favorites is a book by [Komanduri Srinivasa ] Murty and [Julian] Roebuck entitled, "Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Their Place in American Higher Education." I would also encourage the bibliography listed that we have provided [below] as well, along with "The Souls of Black Folk" by W.E.B. DuBois; and "Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities" (2013) by [Craig Steven] Wilder. I also had the pleasure of publishing two titles which are a collection of historical archival material and information entitled, "The Black Colleges of Atlanta"; and "Fisk University", both through Arcadia Press in their College and University series.

Recommended titles to check out

Author Title
Blight, David W.; Downs, Jim Beyond Freedom: Disrupting the History of Emancipation
Toldson, Achebe Black College Leadership in PK-12 Education
Hairston, Kimeta Black experience and navigating higher education through a virtual world
Bonnet, Charles; Gates Jr., Henry Louis Black Kingdom of the Nile
Gates, Henry Louis Black Reconstruction in America: The Oxford W. E. B. Du Bois, Volume 6
Bagasra, Anisa Contributions of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the 21st century
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., author, narrator. Dark sky rising : Reconstruction and the dawn of Jim Crow
Gates, Henry Louis. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader
Vereen, Alonzo, author. Historically Black : American icons who attended HBCUs
Bindman, David; de la Fuente, Alejandro; Gates, Henry Louis Image of the Black in Latin American and Caribbean Art
Gates, Henry Louis In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past
Gasman, Marybeth Making Black Scientists : A Call to Action
Woodson, Carter G Mis-Education of the Negro
Locke, Alain; Stewart, Jeffrey C.; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. New Negro Aesthetic : Selected Writings
Lucas, H. J., author. Not for ourselves alone : the legacies of two pioneers of black higher education in the United States
Sharpe, Christina Ordinary Notes
Samayoa, Andres, ed A primer on minority serving institutions
Suzuki, Kazuko; von Vacano, Diego A.; Gates, Henry Louis Reconsidering Race: Social Science Perspectives on Racial Categories in the Age of Genomics
Crosby, Gary Reimagining Historically Black Colleges and Universities : Survival Beyond 2021
Grundy, Saida, 1982- author. Respectable : politics and paradox in making the Morehouse Man
Felder Small, Pamela Sankofa : African American Perspectives on Race and Culture in US Doctoral Education
Painter, Nell Irvin, author. Southern History Across the Color Line, Second Edition: Southern History Across the Color Line, Second Edi
Spingarn, Adena; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. Uncle Tom : From Martyr to Traitor
Koch, James V. Vital and Valuable: The Relevance of HBCUs to American Life and Education
Myers, Joshua M. We Are Worth Fighting For : A History of the Howard University Student Protest Of 1989