A Large and Persisting Racial Disparity in High School Completions

While many barriers remain restricting access to college for African Americans, a high school diploma remains an essential ticket to higher education. A new report from the Department of Education reveals that blacks continue to graduate from high school at a rate well below that of their white counterparts.

The data shows that in the November 2007 to October 2008 period, 6.4 percent of all black students in grades 10 through 12 dropped out of school during that one-year period. For whites the rate was 2.3 percent. The dropout rate for blacks in the 2007-08 year was one of the highest in the past decade.

The Department of Education also calculates the percentage of all young people ages 16 through 24 who are not enrolled in school and have not earned a high school diploma or high school equivalency certificate. For all young blacks, nearly 10 percent dropped out of school and did not complete their high school education. This is more than double the white rate of 4.8 percent. There are more than 530,000 young blacks who have left school with no high school graduation credential.



Pastor Who Dropped Out of College Becomes the First Black Elected Official in the 344-Year History of Somerset County, Maryland

The city of Princess Anne is the seat of Somerset County, Maryland. It is home to the historically black University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The county is in far southeastern Maryland on the east side of Chesapeake Bay.

Somerset County was incorporated in 1666. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the rural economy was dominated by tobacco plantations. Today the county’s population is 42 percent black.

This past November, Craig N. Mathies Sr., pastor of the Zion Baptist Church in Cambridge, Maryland, became the first African American to win elective office in the 344-year history of Somerset County. He was sworn in as one of five county commissioners last month.

Mathies, who dropped out of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore to take a job at a car dealership, has been a longtime activist with the NAACP. He converted to Christianity in the early 1990s and became a pastor in 2002.


New Degree Program in Intelligence Studies at Fayetteville State University

Fayetteville State University, the historically black educational institution in North Carolina, is creating a new degree program in intelligence studies in conjunction with officials at Fort Bragg, a large Army base near the campus. Courses will be taught in foreign languages, cultural studies, and military science. The university will establish the Center for Defense and Homeland Security with a military advisory council contributing to the administration of the center’s programs.


Study Finds Large Racial Gap in Turnover Rates for Public School Teachers

A new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania documents that black and other minority teachers in the nation’s public school systems are far more likely to leave the profession than white teachers. The study found that the turnover rate for minority teachers is 24 percent higher than for white teachers. The research found that more than half of the minority teachers worked in high-poverty urban school districts, compared to only 20 percent of white teachers. The difficult learning and working environments in these schools is a major contributing factor to the disparity in teacher turnover rates, according to the study.


The New President of Des Moines University

Angela Walker Franklin was appointed president of Des Moines University in Iowa. This spring she will become the 15th president of the 112-year-old university, which offers only graduate and professional programs in medicine and other health-related fields.

Dr. Franklin currently serves as executive vice president and provost at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. She also is a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Meharry.

Prior to joining the faculty and administration at Meharry, Dr. Franklin held several positions at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. She is a 1981 Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude graduate of Furman University and holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Emory University.


Yale’s Financial Aid Budget Has Quadrupled Over the Past Decade

Yale University has sweetened financial aid packages for low- and middle-income students. Under the new program, parents of students from families with incomes below $65,000 will not have to contribute to the cost of a Yale education. Previously the level was $60,000. In addition, students from families with incomes of up to $130,000 will have to contribute no more than 10 percent of their annual income to fund a Yale education.

Under the new program, Yale’s budget for financial aid is expected to grow to $117 million for the 2011-12 academic year. This is quadruple the amount of money Yale allocated to financial aid a decade ago.



In Memoriam

Gloria Rackley Blackwell (1927-2010)

Gloria Rackley Blackwell, a longtime educator and civil rights leader, died last month from heart failure at Piedmont Fayette Hospital in Georgia. She was 83 years old.

While an undergraduate student at Claflin University and while studying for a master’s degree at South Carolina State University, Blackwell was an NAACP organizer and participated in dozens of civil rights protests. In 1963 she was fired from her job in the public school system of Orangeburg, South Carolina, for participating in demonstrations to desegregate schools and hospitals. She successfully filed suit to get her job back. She then spent four years on the faculty of Norfolk State University in Virginia and two years teaching black studies courses at American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts.

In 1970 Blackwell moved to Atlanta to pursue a Ph.D. in American studies at Emory University. After earning her doctorate in 1973, she joined the faculty of Clark Atlanta University. She retired from Clark Atlanta in 1993.


Honors and Awards

• M. Brian Blake, associate dean for research and professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Notre Dame, was named a Distinguished Scientist by the Association for Computing Machinery.

Professor Blake is a 1994 graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology. He holds a master’s degree from Mercer University and a Ph.D. in information and software engineering from George Mason University.

• Kristala Jones Prather, assistant professor of chemical engineering at MIT, received the 2010 Junior Bose Teaching Award from the university’s School of Engineering.

Dr. Prather is a 1994 graduate of MIT and holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

• William Lawson, the founder of the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, was awarded the Presidential Medallion from the University of Houston. Reverend Lawson was a key figure in developing the African-American studies program at the university.

• John S. Wilson Jr., executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, was presented the Presidential Medal from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Dr. Wilson, who taught at George Washington University prior to joining the Obama administration, is a graduate of Morehouse College. He holds two master’s degrees and an educational doctorate from Harvard University.

• Frances Smith Foster, the Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Emory University, was awarded the 2010 Jay B. Hubbell Medal from the Modern Language Association. She is the first African-American woman to win the Hubbell Medal.

Professor Foster is a graduate of Miami University. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Southern California and a Ph.D. in British and American literature from the University of California at San Diego.


Grants and Gifts

Fort Valley State University, the historically black educational institution in Georgia, received a five-year, $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct research on crops that can be used as energy.

Historically black South Carolina State University received two grants totaling $1.25 million over the next five years for graduate programs concentrating in mental health, substance abuse, and addiction.

Tuskegee University, the historically black educational institution in Alabama, received a gift of $1.6 million from the Matthew and Roberta Jenkins Family Foundation. The gift will be used to fund scholarships for students in the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Both Matthew and Roberta Jenkins are graduates of Tuskegee University.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health is sharing a three-year, $5.2 million grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation for an educational and outreach program targeted toward African Americans and Hispanic Americans with type 2 diabetes.

The National Action Council for Minority Engineers received a $520,000 grant from the ExxonMobil Foundation for programs to increase the number of blacks and other minority students who study engineering.

As we begin the new year, how optimistic are you for the prospect of gains for African Americans in higher education during the coming year?
Very optimistic
Guarded optimism
Not optimistic


Black Colleges and Universities Are Increasing Their Online Presence

According to an analysis by Roy L. Beasley, an academic systems analyst at Howard University in Washington, D.C., only 19 of the 89 historically black colleges and universities with four-year bachelor’s degree programs offer full-time online programs for either bachelor’s or master’s degrees. In 2006 only 12 HBCUs offered degree programs that could be completed entirely online.



Eastern Illinois University Declines to Remove Name of a Proponent of Slavery From a Campus Building

Eastern Illinois University in Charleston has rejected a proposal offered by faculty members to change the name of Douglas Hall. The proposal said that naming a building after Senator Stephen Douglas, who was a fierce defender of slavery and white supremacy, is not appropriate. Some on the faculty have suggested that the name be changed to Douglass Hall to honor former slave and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass. But this was rejected because Douglass had no ties to the university or Illinois.

However, the university committee said that steps should be taken to show that the name of the building is not intended to honor Stephen Douglas but rather to commemorate the 1858 debate in Charleston between Abraham Lincoln and Douglas. Some opponents of the current name suggested that a better alternative would be Debate Hall or Lincoln-Douglas Hall.



A White Man Is Elected President of the NAACP Chapter at Historically Black Jackson State University

Michael Teasley was elected president of the NAACP chapter on the campus of Jackson State University, the historically black educational institution in Mississippi. Teasley is in his mid-30s and is a senior at Jackson State majoring in political science. And Teasely is white.

Teasely dropped out of school in junior high and began to sell drugs. At the age of 18 he had a son and worked two jobs while studying for his GED. He then landed a job securing sites for cell telephone towers and made a good living. In 2008 Teasley decided he wanted something more and enrolled in college. But he was arrested on drug charges and spent four months in jail because he could not afford the bail. When he was released, his anger prompted him to throw bricks through the police department windows and he was arrested for destruction of public property.

Teasely became friends with a pastor while in jail and was baptized in his cell. He pled guilty to the charges of destruction of public property and was placed on five years probation. Back at school he became involved in a voter registration drive during the 2008 election campaign and became an active member in the NAACP. He was elected president of the chapter this past fall.

Teasely is scheduled to graduate in 2012. He may consider law school or he might jump right into politics.

University of Virginia Boosts Business With Minority-Owned Firms

The University of Virginia reports it has achieved significant success in increasing contracting to minority-owned firms. The university’s Supplier Diversity Program was announced five years ago. At that time the university had contracts worth about $3 million with firms owned by women and minorities. In 2010, the university spent about $20 million with such firms. A large part of the increase has been with minority-owned construction firms.


Historically Black Alabama State University to Offer Two New Degree Programs in Forensic Science

Alabama State University, the historically black educational institution in Montgomery, has received approval to offer two new programs in forensic science. Beginning next fall, the university will offer a bachelor’s degree in forensic chemistry and a master’s degree program in the forensic sciences. The programs will be housed in the department of physical sciences in the university’s College of Science, Mathematics, and Technology.


Recent Books That May Be of Interest to African-American Scholars

The JBHE Weekly Bulletin regularly publishes a list of new books that may be of interest to our readers. Here are the latest selections.

American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary edited by Deborah Barker and Kathryn McKee (University of Georgia Press)

American Pietas: Visions of Race, Death, and the Maternal by Ruby C. Tapia (University of Minnesota Press)

Black on Earth: African American Ecoliterary Traditions by Kimberly N. Ruffin (University of Georgia Press)

Changing Bodies in the Fiction of Octavia Butler: Slaves, Aliens, Vampires by Gregory Jerome Hampton (Lexington Books)

Civil War Citizens: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in America’s Bloodiest Conflict edited by Susanna J. Ural (New York University Press)

Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement by Tomiko Brown-Nagin (Oxford University Press)

Images of Black Modernism: Verbal and Visual Strategies of the Harlem Renaissance by Miriam Thaggert (University of Massachusetts Press)

Making the San Fernando Valley: Rural Landscapes, Urban Development, and White Privilege by Laura R. Barraclough (University of Georgia Press)

On Slavery’s Border: Missouri’s Small Slaveholding Households, 1815-1865 by Diane Mutti Burke (University of Georgia Press)

Reversed Gaze: An African Ethnography of American Anthropology by Mwenda Ntarangwi (University of Illinois Press)

Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-Hop and Black Politics by Lester K. Spence (University of Minnesota Press)

The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life by Elijah Anderson (W.W. Norton & Co.)

The Unstoppable Leader by James M. Howerton (Ecko House Publishing)

Trading Places: Colonization and Slavery in Eighteenth-Century French Culture by Madeleine Dobie (Cornell University Press)

Treme: Race and Place in a New Orleans Neighborhood by Michael E. Crutcher Jr. (University of Georgia Press)

12 Angry Men: True Stories of Being a Black Man in America Today edited by Gregory S. Parks and Matthew W. Hughey (The New Press)

War, Empire, and Slavery, 1770-1830 edited by Richard Bessel et al. (Palgrave Macmillan)


Appointments, Promotions, and Resignations

• Marcelite J. Harris was appointed to the board of visitors at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Harris retired from the Air Force in 1997 with the rank of major general.

Harris holds bachelor’s degrees from Spelman College and the University of Maryland.

• Ivory V. Nelson, president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, was appointed to a six-year term of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education.

Dr. Nelson is a graduate of Grambling State University in Louisiana. He holds a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of Kansas.

• Carlton G. Edwards was appointed chief of police at Virginia Union University in Richmond. He was deputy chief of police and director of hospital security at Virginia Commonwealth University.

• Marquetta L. Faulkner, professor at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, was named to the school’s Joy McCann Endowed Professorship. She has served on the Meharry faculty since 1989.

Dr. Faulkner is a 1981 graduate of Meharry Medical College and holds an MBA from the University of Tennessee.

• Reginald Nnazor was appointed dean of the College of Education at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. He was professor and chair of the College of Education at the University of Maine.

A graduate of the University of Nigeria, Dr. Nnazor holds master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

This week Portia Holmes Shields has assumed the duties of interim president of Tennessee State University in Nashville. Dr. Shields, who is the former president of Albany State University in Georgia, was given an 18-month contract with the goal of assuring the institution’s accreditation. Under the terms of her contract, she will not be eligible for the presidency of the university on a permanent basis.

Dr. Holmes is a graduate of the University of the District of Columbia. She holds a master’s degree from George Washington University and an educational doctorate from the University of Maryland.




Copyright © 2011. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.