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How a College Degree Breaks the Back of Racial Discrimination

New figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau unequivocally show that possession of a four-year college degree not only greatly increases the incomes of African Americans but goes almost all the way in closing the economic gap between blacks and whites.

African Americans with a two-year associate’s degree improve their income by only 41 percent over blacks with just a high school diploma. But blacks with a four-year college degree outperform blacks with a high school diploma by 93.4 percent.

But the important issue is the impact of a college education on the black-white income gap. The overall median black family income in the United States is 61 percent of the median white family income. This very large gap in the income ratio has remained virtually unchanged for more than 30 years.

But look what happens when we put aside the overall black-white income gap and confine our view only to college-educated blacks and whites. In 2004 blacks with a bachelor’s degree had a median income of $36,086. This is 90 percent of the median income of non-Hispanic whites with a bachelor’s degree, which stood at $39,987.

“We may indeed have torn down the walls of segregation, but there are still so many walls to tear down in our hearts.”

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley calling for increased opportunities for African Americans in higher education during a speech at historically black Bowie State University, February 19, 2007

Advanced Placement Tests Where Black Students Perform Well

Nationwide only 26.7 percent of all African Americans who took an Advanced Placement test in 2006 received a grade of 3 or above. A grade of 3, 4, or 5 on these tests allows a student to become eligible for college credit.

There was a wide discrepancy in the success ratio for black students on the different subject tests in the Advanced Placement program.

It is encouraging to report that the AP course in which blacks achieved the most success was one of the two calculus tests. Nearly 58 percent of all black students who took this AP exam received a score of 3 or above. This is more than double the success ratio for blacks on AP tests generally. It must be noted that nearly 81 percent of all white students who took this AP calculus examination received a qualifying grade.

Blacks also fared well on the studio art design tests. More than half of all black students who took these two tests received a qualifying grade of 3 or above. More than half of all black test takers received qualifying grades on the electrical and magnetic physics test and one of the two computer science examinations. Blacks also fared well on the Spanish literature and French language tests.

On the studio art drawing AP test, 46.9 percent of black students received a qualifying grade. This is the only AP course where there is no examination. Students are graded by an assessment of their drawing portfolios. More than 69 percent of white students received a grade of 3 or above on their drawing portfolio.

At the other end of the spectrum, only 389 of the 2,097 black students, or 18.6 percent, who took the AP environmental science test received a qualifying score of 3 or above. Less than 25 percent of all black students succeeded in qualifying for college credit in the subject areas of macroeconomics, physics, English language, statistics, U.S. history, comparative politics, English literature, and the more widely taken of the two computer science tests.

Jazz Research Institute Established at North Carolina Central University

North Carolina Central University, the historically black educational institution, has announced the formation of the Jazz Research Institute on its Durham campus. The project, the product of a partnership between the university and the African-American Jazz Caucus, will hold an annual summer jazz festival in Durham. In addition, the institute will establish a Hall of Fame for jazz musicians, will develop a curriculum for jazz education in elementary, secondary, and college classrooms, and will seek to foster appreciation for jazz in the African-American community.

University Education and Scientific Research Get a Boost From African Leaders

At a recent summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, leaders of African nations approved a resolution calling for a revitalization of African universities and the spending of 1 percent of their gross domestic product on scientific research. Rwandan President Paul Kagame said that he planned to raise his country’s spending on research to 3 percent of the gross domestic product.

Many westerners hold the view that as to scientific research, there is little work of importance conducted on the African continent. But nothing could be further from the truth. There have been major scientific achievements in pharmaceutical development, crop management, plant science, and genetics. The South African Large Telescope is among the largest in the world capable of detecting objects a billion times too faint to be seen by the naked eye.

New Study Finds Widespread Racism Among White College Students

A study by Joe R. Feagin of Texas A&M University and Leslie H. Picca of the University of Dayton has found widespread racial prejudice among white college students. The sociologists analyzed 626 journals kept by white college students during the 2002-03 academic year at colleges and universities across the United States. Their analysis of content found that whites frequently use the word “nigger” when referring to blacks when they are alone with their white friends. Racial stereotypes about blacks being prone to criminal behavior, having hyperactive sex drives, and being lazy were commonplace in journal entries.

The researchers found that white college students are polite to their black peers to their face and when adults are in earshot. But in the safety of their inner circle of white friends, racist statements and behavior are not much different than they were generations ago.

The findings will be released in a new book entitled Two-Faced Racism: Whites in the Backstage and Frontstage published this spring by Routledge.

Brown University Announces Response to Recommendations of the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice

Last fall the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice issued a report after three years of investigating the institution’s past ties to slavery. The Brown family, which provided the money to establish the institution, was involved in the Atlantic slave trade and slaves were used as laborers to construct at least one building on the Brown campus.

Now, Brown University president Ruth J. Simmons has announced the school’s response to the committee’s recommendations. Simmons has pledged that the university will create a $10 million endowment called the Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence. The earnings from this endowment will be used to support the Providence public school system. In addition, the university will create 10 Urban Fellowships for graduate students who agree to serve in the Providence schools for three years after earning their degrees. In return, the university will pay their full tuition.

Brown also announced several other steps such as forming committees to decide on a proper memorial for slaves, how to further integrate teachings on the slave trade into the Brown curriculum, and steps that can be taken to strengthen the Africana studies department.

In Memoriam

Frank Martin Snowden Jr. (1911-2007)

Frank M. Snowden Jr., who taught the classics at Howard University for nearly half a century, died from congestive heart failure at an assisted living facility in Washington, D.C. He was 95 years old.

Snowden was among the first scholars to document the presence of Africans in ancient Roman and Greek civilization. It was Snowden’s thesis that blacks were not regarded as inferior by the ancient Europeans.

Snowden was born in rural Virginia, the son of a U.S. Army colonel. He grew up in Boston and was accepted at the prestigious Boston Latin high school. He earned bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in the classics at Harvard University. He joined the Howard University faculty in 1940.

Snowden was the author of the 1970 book, Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience. He spent 15 years conducting research for that work. In 1983 he published his second book, Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks.

In 2003 President Bush presented Snowden with the National Humanities Medal.


Keith Andrew Wailoo was named Martin Luther King Professor of History at Rutgers University. He has served as professor of history and director of the Center for Race and Ethnicity. He is also affiliated with the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research.

Ron Daniels, former executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, was named Distinguished Lecturer at York College, a division of the City University of New York. He will lecture this semester and teach two classes in the behavioral sciences department this coming fall.

Daniels is a graduate of Youngstown State University and holds a master’s degree in political science from the Rockefeller School of Public Affairs in Albany, New York, and a Ph.D. in Africana studies from the Union Institute in Cincinnati.

Constance Gregory was named director of the Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (WISE) Center at Syracuse University. Gregory, who is a graduate of both Syracuse University and the Syracuse University School of Law, is the CEO of a private consulting firm.


The Atlanta University Center received a $1 million grant from Bank of America to upgrade the library’s archives and special collections section. The money will be used to improve the facility, which will house the Martin Luther King Jr. papers.  The center’s library serves four historically black institutions: Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, and the Interdenominational Theological Center.



Yale Professor Disputes the Historical Accuracy of a Sculpture for the Frederick Douglass Memorial in Central Park

In 1999 Jacqueline Tobin and Raymond Dobard published a book entitled Hidden in Plain View. The book maintains that a secret code was embedded in quilts which were hung outside houses along the route of the Underground Railroad. This code reportedly instructed the escaping slaves on how to proceed on their journey to freedom.

Now a new memorial for Frederick Douglass under construction in New York City’s Central Park depicts Douglass near a large granite quilt. The sculptress agrees that her design was inspired by the book Hidden in Plain View.

But David Blight, professor of history at Yale University and author of a biography on Frederick Douglass, says there is no historical evidence that quilts were ever embedded with a symbolic code to help escaping slaves. “I simply object to associating Frederick Douglass in a major public memorial with such a legend,” Professor Blight told the Yale Daily News. “Frederick Douglass never saw, nor did he even hear of, a quilt used to signal a runaway slave. The memorial ought to be rooted in real and important aspects of his life and thought, not a piece of folklore largely invented in the 1990s.”

Blacks Continuing Their Strong Gains in Master’s Degree Attainments

In the 2004-05 academic year blacks earned 49,065 master’s degrees at U.S. colleges and universities. This was 8.5 percent of all master’s degrees awarded that year. The number of blacks earning a master’s degree was up more than 8.8 percent from the previous year. Since 2000 the number of blacks earning master’s degrees is up by more than 36 percent.

Blacks have made significant progress over the past 20 years in increasing the number of master’s degrees earned. In 1990, 15,336 African Americans were awarded master’s degrees from U.S. universities. During the 2004-05 academic year, this figure had more than tripled. The percentage of all master’s degrees earned by blacks has increased from 5 percent in 1985 to 8.5 percent today.

As in almost all areas of higher education, black women are leading the way. In the 2004-05 academic years, black women earned 35,100 master’s degrees compared to 13,965 for black men. Thus, black women accounted for 71.5 percent of all master’s degrees awarded to African Americans.

The Medical Schools That Turn Out the Most Black Doctors

In 2006 there were 1,122 black medical school graduates. There were 46 U.S. medical schools that graduated at least 10 black doctors. There were 65 black graduates at the Howard University School of Medicine in 2006, the most black graduates of any U.S. school of medicine. Meharry Medical College was second with 51 black graduates.

Among the predominantly white medical schools, Temple University led the way with 29 black graduates in 2006. The medical schools at Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, Louisiana State University, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Indiana University, Ohio State University, and the University of Illinois all had at least 20 black graduates.

Among the 10 highest-ranked medical schools, Johns Hopkins University, the University of California at San Francisco, Washington University, Stanford University, and the University of Washington all had fewer than 10 black graduates.

72-Year-Old Black Woman Has a Difficult Task of Recruiting Black Students for an Almost All White University

For the past 17 years Betty Chavis has served as director of outreach and multicultural programs at Michigan Technological University. Now 72 years old, Chavis has an extremely difficult job. The university, located in Houghton on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is a world away from the housing projects in Detroit where she grew up. Harsh winters and an almost all white local population are the norm on the Upper Peninsula. After nearly two decades, Chavis has not found anyone who can cut her hair to her satisfaction.

When Chavis arrived on campus in 1989 there were only 17 black students. Today there are 126. But even this tremendous progress is tempered by the fact that blacks are still less than 2 percent of the student body. Furthermore, only 16 percent of black undergraduate students earn their diploma within six years.

Chavis graduated from high school in Detroit at age 15. She enrolled at Wayne State University but dropped out to study dance in New York City. She returned to Detroit and opened a dress shop while returning to school to earn a degree in communications. Before coming to Michigan Tech she worked in city government and as an aide to the leader of the Michigan State Senate.

Chavis currently oversees a staff of five who recruit black students from high schools in Detroit, Chicago, and other cities. She recently told the Detroit Free Press that when recruiting black students to come to the predominantly white university in a cold climate, she tells them, “My Daddy told me, you won’t learn anything hanging around only black people.”

Students at Black Colleges Are Drinking Less Alcohol and Smoking Fewer Cigarettes

According to the annual survey of college freshmen conducted by the the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, students at black colleges party less, drink fewer alcoholic beverages, and are less likely to smoke cigarettes than college students generally. The percentage of freshmen at black colleges who drink beer is at its lowest level in 40 years. Freshman students generally are more than three times as likely to drink beer as freshmen at black colleges.

Wine and liquor consumption at the black colleges also has dropped significantly in recent years. After a spike in the rate of smoking cigarettes during the 1990s, today only a very small percentage of first-year students at black colleges smoke, about one third the rate for freshman students of all races. Perhaps the huge escalation in cigarette costs and taxes is having a disproportionate effect on black freshmen who are less able to afford the cost of smoking.

Endowed Professorship at Penn Law Will Focus on Civil Rights Law

The University of Pennsylvania Law School has created the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professorship. It is the first endowed chair at the law school to be named for African Americans.

Raymond Pace Alexander, a graduate of Penn’s Wharton School of Business and Harvard Law School, was the first African American appointed to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander was the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in economics. In 1927 she was the first black woman to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

The chair was established with a $1 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and a $100,000 grant from Duane Morris, a Philadelphia law firm.

The scholar who is appointed to the chair will focus on the study of civil rights law and race relations.

9.4%  Percentage of all white high school students in 2005 who had used an hallucinogenic drug in their lifetime.

2.8%  Percentage of all black high school students in 2005 who had used an hallucinogenic drug in their lifetime.

source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Dormitory at Chapel Hill Renamed to Honor a Black Slave

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has renamed a dormitory on its South Campus in honor of George Moses Horton. Horton, who lived from 1797 to 1883, was a black slave who resided eight miles from the university campus. On weekends, his master sent Horton on foot to the Chapel Hill campus to sell produce. Horton would also sell poems about love to students for 25 cents. Evidently the students would in turn recite the poems to their boyfriends or girlfriends and present them as their own sentiments of affection. Horton would receive a bonus of 25 cents for working a particular sweetheart’s name into the verse.

A collection of Horton’s love poems was published in a book entitled The Hope of Liberty. It is believed to be the first book published by a black author from the South.


Joanne Corbin, associate professor of social work at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, will receive the 2006 Greatest Contribution to Social Work Education Award later this month at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Ivan T. Mosley Sr., chair of the manufacturing systems department of the School of Technology at North Carolina A&T State University, received the Distinguished Technology Educator Award from the International Technology Education Association. Dr. Mosley is only the third African American to ever win the award.

Thomas A. Watkins Jr., who chaired the department of machine technology at Prairie View A&M University for many years, received the Betty Shabazz Award from the Westchester County African-American Advisory Board. Professor Watkins has been active in recent years in many civic organizations in the Westchester community.

Gary S. May, professor and Steve W. Chaddick Chair of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech, received the 2006 Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The award is given to individuals who have exhibited leadership in increasing the involvement of underrepresented groups in science and engineering fields.

Professor May has been on the Georgia Tech faculty since 1991. A 1985 graduate of Georgia Tech, he went on to earn a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

Gregory Pardlo, assistant professor of English and creative writing at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York, won the Honickman Prize from the American Poetry Review for his forthcoming book Totem. He is the first African American to win the award and the accompanying $3,000 cash prize.

Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, was given the Delta Prize for Global Understanding from the University of Georgia. The prize includes a sculpture and a $10,000 cash award.


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