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University of Virginia Issues a Formal Apology for Its Use of Slave Labor

The board of visitors of the University of Virginia issued a formal apology for the university’s use of slave labor in the period from 1819 to 1865.

Slaves were used in the construction of many buildings on campus and they also worked in many service positions. Students also brought slaves to campus to act as their personal servants. Recent research has shown that at one time as many as 185 slaves were housed on campus.

Previously, the board of visitors had authorized a monument on campus to recognize the work done by slaves.

The new resolution also recommitted the university to the adoption of a principle of equal opportunity.

“The notion of involuntary servitude is repugnant and incompatible with the ideals upon which this university was founded. The board expresses its particular regret for the employment of enslaved persons.”

— from a resolution passed unanimously by the board of visitors of the University of Virginia, April 24, 2007 (See story above.)

Patrick Swygert to Retire From Presidency of Howard University

H. Patrick Swygert, the president of Howard University since 1995, has announced that he will retire at the end of the 2007-08 academic year. For most of his tenure President Swygert, now 64 years old, has generally received high marks for his ability to raise money and restore morale to an institution that was reeling from sagging enrollment and financial difficulties when he took over. He has been very popular with Howard students.

But President Swygert has often been at odds with the Howard faculty. In March the faculty Senate sent a letter to the board of trustees claiming “an intolerable condition of incompetence and dysfunction at the highest level” of the university’s administration. Published reports also indicate that Swygert’s standing with the board of trustees is not as solid as has been the case in the past.

President Swygert is a graduate of Howard University and the Howard Law School. Before becoming Howard’s president, he was a member of the faculty and served in several administrative posts at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Professor at Georgia Southern University Composes Opera Based on a 1941 Racial Confrontation Involving the University’s President and the Governor of Georgia

A new opera entitled A Scholar Under Siege recently was performed at Georgia Southern University. The opera was composed by Michael Braz, a professor of music at Georgia Southern University, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the educational institution.

The opera deals with the 1941 confrontation between then Georgia governor Eugene Talmadge and Georgia Southern University president Marvin Pittman. Talmadge fired Pittman because he believed that the university president favored the racial integration of Georgia higher education.

One lyric sung by the character portraying Governor Talmadge is, “We don’t need no Negroes and white people taught together. I’m not gonna put up with any social equality in this state as long as I’m governor.” Another character with a singing role in the opera is Mose Bass, a black custodian at the university.

Braz refused to use the word “nigger” in the lyrics despite the fact that Governor Talmadge used it often. Braz holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Miami and a Ph.D. from Florida State University.

Authors Honored for Books Dealing With Racism

The Cleveland Foundation has announced the winners of the 2007 Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. The awards, created in 1935, recognize outstanding works that contribute to society’s understanding of racism and foster an appreciation of diversity.

In the fiction category there were two awards. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was honored for his novel Half of a Yellow Sun, a story that takes place during the Biafran War in 1967. Adichie is currently conducting graduate work in African studies at Yale.

Martha Collins’ book-length poem Blue Front examines the 1909 lynching of a black man in Cairo, Illinois. Collins is the Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College.

Scott Reynolds Nelson won the award in the nonfiction category for Steel Drivin’ Man, the historical portrayal of John Henry, a black man who, as a member of a chain gang, built railroads in Virginia. Nelson is a professor of history at the College of William and Mary.

The foundation also bestowed its lifetime achievement award on historian Taylor Branch for his trilogy on the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

The First Black Woman to be Awarded a Ph.D. in Physics in Colorado

In 2005, the latest year for which data is available, only 10 African Americans earned a Ph.D. in physics. For an African-American woman to win a Ph.D. in physics is a rare phenomenon. In fact, in the entire history of this country, fewer than 60 black women have earned doctorates in physics.

But this summer Marty Baylor will complete her doctorate at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She will be the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics in the state of Colorado.

Baylor, now 30 years old, is a graduate of Kenyon College, a liberal arts institution in Gambier, Ohio. Although she majored in physics, she also studied Chinese. Less than 3 percent of the students at Kenyon are black.

Her research in optical physics deals with unscrambling signals using lasers. As the human brain can focus on a single voice in a room full of talking people, she hopes to develop methods for electronic devices to do the same. Practical applications for this technology could produce breakthroughs in hearing aids, cellular telephones, and electronic intelligence gathering operations.

Coin Commemorating the Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Would Provide $2.5 Million for Black Colleges and Universities

Congressional Representatives John Lewis of Georgia and Deborah Pryce of Ohio have introduced legislation authorizing the U.S. Mint to produce a commemorative $1 coin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The coin would be issued in 2014.

The coin would be legal tender but it is not intended for wide circulation. The coin would be primarily sold by the U.S. Mint to collectors. Proceeds from the sale of the coin to collectors are earmarked under the legislation to benefit the United Negro College Fund, which supports 39 historically black colleges and universities. It is estimated that $2.5 million will be raised for the UNCF from proceeds of the sale of the commemorative coin.

The New President of Morehouse College

Robert M. Franklin Jr. has been named the 10th president of Morehouse College, the historically black college for men in Atlanta. Franklin, currently the Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, will take office this July, replacing Walter E. Massey, who is retiring.

A 1975 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College with a bachelor’s degree in political science and religion, Dr. Franklin earned a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D. in ethics and society, religion and the social sciences from the University of Chicago Divinity School.

He is the author of Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope to African American Communities.


Sydney Johnson was named head coach of the men’s basketball team at Princeton University. He was an assistant coach at Georgetown University. Johnson is a 1997 graduate of Princeton University and was the Ivy League basketball player of the year in 1997.

Honors and Awards

Ruby Dee, the well-known stage, screen, and television actress, has received the Harvard Foundation Humanitarian Award. She starred opposite Sidney Poitier in the 1961 film A Raisin in the Sun. Dee and her late husband Ossie Davis were active in the civil rights movement.

Derek Walcott, the Nobel Prize-winning poet and playwright, has been named the 2007 Janet Weis Fellow in Contemporary Letters at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Walcott will receive the award and give a lecture at ceremonies on the Bucknell campus this coming October.

Isaiah Sanders, composer, producer, and musician, has received the Achievement Award from the African-American Arts Institute at Indiana University. A graduate of Knox College, Sanders did graduate study in piano and jazz at Indiana University. He has performed instrumentals in studio work and on tour for Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, and other notable artists.

Albert Murray, the noted novelist and poet who is now 90 years old, has been presented with the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from Harvard University’s  Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research.

Florida A&M University Was Once a Mecca for the Nation’s Highest-Achieving Black Students: Those Days Are Gone

In 1996, Florida A&M enrolled 73 National Achievement Scholars, more than any other college or university in the nation. The success of the university in attracting so many of the nation’s top black students resulted in Time magazine selecting Florida A&M University as its 1997 “College of the Year.”

But over the past decade, numerous financial irregularities, turmoil in administrative ranks, and a drop in enrollment have tarnished the university’s reputation. In the fall of 2006 only one of the 800 National Achievement Scholars enrolled at Florida A&M.

The generous merit-based financial aid awards once used by then FAMU president Frederick Humphries to attract the best black students are no longer available. A decade of financial problems and scandals, many of them involving the financial aid office, have rocked the campus. Some state legislators in Florida have even hinted that they might consider closing the university if it does not quickly take steps to right the financial ship.

James H. Ammons, former chancellor of North Carolina Central University and an alumnus of Florida A&M, recently was named president of the university. He has a monumental task of restoring the financial footing and the academic reputation of what was once the mecca for the nation’s best and brightest black students.

Delaware State University to Make Major Additions to Its Graduate Programs

Delaware State University, the historically black educational institution in Dover, has announced plans to establish five new graduate programs over the next two years. New doctoral programs in neuroscience, applied chemistry, and optics will be offered. The new programs will double the number of doctoral programs at the university.

In addition, the university will establish new master’s degree programs in applied optics and computer science.

All of the new graduate programs are designed to attract research dollars to the Delaware State campus.

Privately Funded Scholarships for Black Students Established at Harvard

A new scholarship program has been established at Harvard University to honor two black students who were killed in an automobile accident in 1999. Members of the Class of 1999 and the families of Deshaun R. Hill and Harvard C.N. Stephens have set up a scholarship fund which will award $500 grants to black sophomores or juniors who are majoring in mathematics or the sciences. A commitment to community service and concern for the plight of the disadvantaged will also be considered as positive attributes in the selection process.

There are legal wolves prepared to try to extend prohibitions against race-based scholarships. JBHE expects that in time right-wing organizations such as the Center for Individual Rights or the Center for Equal Opportunity will mount a legal challenge to private scholarships earmarked for blacks when the scholarships are administered by or employed at private educational institutions that receive federal grants or other federal funds.

University of Chicago Admits a Record Number of Black Students

The University of Chicago has a rich history in providing educational opportunities for African Americans at the graduate level. But until very recently black undergraduate enrollments at the University of Chicago have lagged those of the university’s peer institutions by a considerable margin.

But in 2006 a new emphasis on recruiting black students produced results. In the 2006-07 academic year there were 81 black freshmen at the University of Chicago. This was an increase of more than 52 percent from the previous year. Blacks were 6.4 percent of the first-year class that entered the university this past September, up from 4.9 percent a year earlier.

It appears now that this progress is continuing. This spring a record 265 African Americans were admitted to the University of Chicago, up nearly 14 percent from 2006. Blacks were 7.3 percent of all students admitted to the university this spring.

New Cultural Center to Be Named for Harvey Gantt, the Former Charlotte Mayor Who Was the First Black Student at Clemson University

The city of Charlotte is currently constructing a $127 million cultural complex that will include museums, a theater, and an Afro-American cultural center. It was recently announced that the cultural center will be named to honor Harvey Gantt.

Gantt, who served as mayor of Charlotte, was the first black student at South Carolina’s Clemson University. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Clemson in 1965. He went on to receive a master’s degree in city planning at MIT. He established a successful architectural firm in Charlotte before beginning his political career. In both 1990 and 1996, Gantt ran against segregationist U.S. Senator Jesse Helms.

65.4%  Percentage of white American adults who have a cellular telephone.

51.7%  Percentage of African American adults who have a cellular telephone.

source: U.S. Census Bureau

Governor Proposes Debt-Free Financial Aid for All Low-Income College Students in North Carolina

The Carolina Covenant provides loan-free financial aid to low-income students who enroll at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Now North Carolina Governor Mike Easley wants to extend the program so that low-income students can graduate from any state-operated university debt-free.

Tuition at state-operated colleges and universities in North Carolina now averages $13,400. The average debt load incurred by students who complete a four-year college degree at these institutions is $14,370.

The new proposal that would eliminate student loans for low-income students is called the Educational Access Rewards North Carolina Scholars Program. It would be offered to the approximately 25,000 low-income students attending public community colleges or four-year institutions that are part of the University of North Carolina system. Families with incomes below $41,300 would be eligible.

The estimated $100 million price tag for the new financial aid program will undoubtedly produce some opposition in the state legislature. In reacting to the governor’s plan, the GOP leader of the state Senate said, “When I went to college I borrowed money, and had to pay it back. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

Sadie Gregory Named Interim President at Coppin State University

Next month Sadie Gregory will become interim president of Coppin State University, the historically black educational institution in Baltimore. Current president Stanley F. Battle is stepping down to become chancellor of North Carolina A&T State University. A permanent president is expected to be selected by this fall.

Gregory is a magna cum laude graduate of Virginia State University. She holds a master’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Ph.D. in economics from Howard University. She is currently serving as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Coppin State.

University of Missouri-Kansas City Pledges to Boost Recruitment of Black Students and Faculty and to Build a Strong Black Studies Program

Guy Bailey, the chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Anita Russell, president of the Kansas City chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Under the agreement, which was brokered by the U.S. Justice Department’s Community Relations Service, the university pledges to increase the recruitment of black students and black faculty, to build a strong black studies program, and to act quickly to investigate complaints of racial discrimination.

The NAACP agreed to help the university reach the goals outlined in the memorandum and to meet quarterly with administrators of the university to discuss the progress in achieving these goals.

Currently blacks make up 12.5 percent of the 9,500-member undergraduate student body at the university.

Readers who want to read the entire 17-page memorandum of understanding can do so by clicking here.

In Memoriam

Thomas David Parham Jr. (1920-2007)

Thomas David Parham Jr. was best known for becoming the first African American to achieve the rank of captain in the U.S. Navy. But after retiring from the Navy in 1982, Parham joined the sociology faculty at Norfolk State University.

Parham, an ordained minister of the United Presbyterian Church, enlisted in the Navy in 1944 as a chaplain. He achieved the rank of captain in 1966.

Parham died late last month at the age of 87.

Edythe Meaux Smith (1917-2007)

Edythe Meaux Smith, an educator, journalist, and civil rights activist, died last month at a hospital in St. Louis from heart failure. She was 89 years old.

In 1938 Smith was the first African American to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Southern California. There she majored in journalism and psychology.

Smith wrote for the Pittsburgh Courier and later taught at Harris-Stowe State College, the historically black educational institution in St. Louis.


Philander Smith College, the historically black educational institution in Little Rock, Arkansas, has received a $20,000 grant from the United Negro College Fund for the college’s independent fundraising and development efforts. The college will use the grant to develop a strategic fundraising plan.

Johnson C. Smith University, the historically black educational institution in Charlotte, North Carolina, has received a $50,000 grant from the Food Lion Corporation. The grant will be used to establish a scholarship fund for students in the university’s retail management program. Scholarship recipients will also be eligible for paid internships at the company.



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