Feeling compelled to fill a void of having the story of the Negro told and broadly shared, Dr. Carter Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Scholarly contributions published in the Journal of Negro History and the Negro History Bulletin laid the groundwork for intellectual inquiry and broad dissemination of the facts about the rich heritage of a people. The week-long celebration of black history began in 1926. Fifty years later, in 1976, the February celebration was extended to become a month long event heightening awareness of black life and culture. HBCUs are at the core of that story of black life and culture.
Prairie View A&M University has selected for its 2019 Black History Month or African American History Month theme “Growing Global Citizens at HBCUs.” Beginning with the 1837 founding of what is now Cheney State University in Pennsylvania, HBCUs have responded to the need for quality educational access and opportunity for its students. Unlike many Traditionally White Institutions (TWI), HBCUs have never denied any students on the basis of race or ethnicity. They have responded to the need to educate fully those who enrolled and to offer a quality education in a welcoming, nurturing environment that affirmed the worth of students and demonstrated that in the offering of a broad array of programs and services designed to fuel intellectual and personal maturation. Despite continuing constraints ranging from insufficient fiscal resources to questions about the continued need for these institutions, according to Cohen, HBCUs have served “as sources of cultural capital, uniquely situated to bridge the gap between economic development and underserved communities” (p. 590).
In the 21st century, the challenge to all colleges and universities is that of broadening the vision and the experiences of faculty, staff and students. Writing in ”Educating Our Own: The Historical Legacy of HBCUs and Their Relevance for Educating a New Generation of Leaders,” Travis J. Albritton (2012) states that “even as HBCUs continue their tradition and mission of offering post-secondary education and support . . .the changing American context has created a climate that requires HBCUs to consider how to move forward . . .offering educational opportunities to Black students as they seek, simultaneously, to expand both their national and global reach” (327).