The Myth That a Large Number of African-American College Students Major in Black Studies

The stereotype held by most people in the U.S. is that African-American college students are rushing into black studies majors. This is totally false. According to new Department of Education statistics, only 960, or 0.7 percent, of all African-American bachelor’s degree recipients in 2004 received their degree in any type of ethnic studies discipline. Therefore, only one out of every 143 bachelor’s degrees awarded to blacks was in ethnic studies. In fact, there are more blacks who majored in the physical sciences — a field in which there are very few African Americans — than African Americans who earned their degree in black studies.

There are more than seven times as many blacks majoring in computer science and more than five times as many blacks majoring in the biological sciences than in black studies.

Blacks make up only 13 percent of the students earning bachelor’s degrees in ethnic studies disciplines. Whites earned 58 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in ethnic studies in the United States in the 2003-04 academic year.


The Bush administration “has run the country into the ground, continued an assault on our civil liberties and civil rights, orchestrated a massive transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top, increased poverty every year they’ve been in office, created dangerous deficits, substituted religion for science, ignored global warming, wrecked environmental protections, appeased the wretched appetites of the extreme right wing and chosen Cabinet officials whose devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection.”

Julian Bond, chair of the NAACP, speaking at the civil rights group’s 2006 national convention in Washington, D.C.


Sharp Reductions in Black Enrollments at the Most Selective CUNY Campuses

In 1998 the trustees of the City University of New York voted to end all remedial education at the system’s four-year campuses and to institute a series of tests for admission to a CUNY baccalaureate program.

Black enrollments at CUNY four-year colleges are down 6 percent since the new standards were initiated. But the decreases are most pronounced at several of the most selective CUNY campuses. At Hunter College and Baruch College, the two most selective of all CUNY four-year institutions, black enrollments are down 23 percent and 37 percent, respectively. At City College of New York, the alma mater of Colin Powell, black enrollments have plummeted by nearly 21 percent. In contrast, black enrollments are up 7.5 percent at the almost all black Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, the least selective of the CUNY campuses.

At Baruch College the percentage of blacks in the student body had declined from 24.l percent in 1997 to 15 percent today. At City College, the black percentage of the student body had decreased from 39.6 percent to 30.1 percent.

Overall, today blacks make up 28.5 percent of all students at four-year CUNY colleges. This is down from 32.2 percent in 1997.


Predominantly Black Compton Community College Drops Accreditation Appeal: Two-Year College to Merge With Nearby Institution

In June 2005 the Western Association of Colleges and Schools’ Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges stripped Compton Community College of its accreditation. The loss of accreditation is usually a deathblow to an educational institution because students at the school are no longer eligible for any kind of federal financial aid. Compton College, where blacks and Latinos make up almost all of the students, retained its academic standing pending appeal.

But the college has decided to throw in the towel and drop the appeal. The college will now be merged with El Camino Community College in Torrance, California. Blacks are now 19 percent of the 25,000-member student body at El Camino Community College.

The Compton campus will be maintained and operated as a satellite facility of El Camino. Students will receive two-year associate’s degrees bearing the name of El Camino Community College. The state hopes that within eight years Compton will be able to regain accreditation on its own and once again become a separate institution.


University of California to Study the Impact of Proposition 209

The regents of the University of California have voted to conduct a study of the effect of Proposition 209 on racial diversity on the system’s campuses. Proposition 209, enacted in 1996 by California voters, bans the use of race in admissions decisions at the university.

In announcing the study the regents said they are not aiming to overturn Proposition 209 but to analyze if they are doing all they can legally to recruit and admit a diverse student body.



Young Black Woman From South Africa Wins the Caine Prize for African Writing

Mary Watson, a 31-year-old black South African, has been awarded the Caine Prize for African writing. The award, named after Sir Michael Caine, the former chair of Booker PLC, the large British conglomerate, is given to promising writers from Africa. Watson won the competition against more than 100 entrants from 21 nations. Her winning work was the short story Jungfrau, which relates a family’s struggles under the South African apartheid regime through the eyes of a young girl.

The Caine Prize comes with a cash award of £10,000. Watson lives in Cape Town and is currently working on her first novel.


Dillard University Checks the Weather Forecast When Setting Its Academic Calendar

After its campus was devastated by Hurricane Katrina last August, Dillard University, the historically black educational institution in New Orleans, closed its doors and then operated out of a downtown hotel during the Spring 2006 semester. But the university is set to move back to its campus this fall.

To avoid potential problems, the university has revised its academic calendar to avoid the peak hurricane season. Dillard will open September 25, about a month later than it has in the past. National Hurricane Center data shows that the vast majority of major hurricanes that come near New Orleans occur in August or September.


Spelman College Graduate Named to Oversee Archival Project of King Papers at Morehouse College

Brenda S. Banks has been named to oversee the archival effort of the Martin Luther King Jr. papers that were recently bought by a consortium of individuals in Atlanta for $32 million. The papers will be housed at the Robert W. Woodruff Library on the campus of Morehouse College, the historically black educational institution in Atlanta.

Banks was the deputy director of the Georgia Department of Archives and History. She is a graduate of Spelman College. Banks also teaches a course on archival management at Georgia State University.


Black Studies Dean at the University of Virginia Announces Retirement

M. Rick Turner, dean of the Office of African American Affairs at the University of Virginia, announced his retirement. He has served as head of the black studies program for the past 18 years.

Professor Turner was placed on administrative leave on July 14 pending a university investigation after he signed a pretrial felony diversion agreement admitting that he had made false statements to investigators on the activities of a drug dealer. Federal prosecutors agreed not to press charges against Turner if he agreed to testify truthfully in any court proceedings in the future.

The university ended its internal investigation after Turner announced his retirement.

Professor Turner has been instrumental in efforts to increase racial diversity and black educational opportunities on the Charlottesville campus. He takes special pride in the university’s stellar record on the graduation rates of its black students.

The university named Maurice Apprey interim dean of the Office of African American Affairs. Apprey has been at the university since 1980, most recently as associate dean for diversity and student support at the School of Medicine.



Beverly Rose was appointed assistant vice chancellor for student affairs administration at Winston-Salem State University. She was the assistant vice president of research and planning at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Dr. Rose is a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University. She holds a master’s in clinical counseling from The Citadel and an educational doctorate from North Carolina State University.

Jack E. Daniels III was named interim president of Los Angeles Southwest College. He will hold the position for one year as the board of trustees searches for a permanent president. Daniels was the president of the Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Illinois.

Lydia A. McKinley-Floyd was named dean of the School of Business and Industry at Florida A&M University. She was the associate dean at Savannah State University’s College of Business.

McKinley-Floyd is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. She holds an MBA from the University of Chicago’s business school and a doctorate from Emory University.



Tuskegee University in Alabama received a $148,183 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to make 670 linear feet of historical documents on African-American history in Alabama available to the general public.

The University of Notre Dame received a $100,000 donation from Phyllis and Jim Stone to endow the new department of African studies at the university. The Stones are both alumni of the university. Phyllis currently serves on the Notre Dame board of trustees. She is the executive director of worldwide marketing for Merck & Co.




Foundation Offers Free College Education to Low-Income Seventh-Graders If They Complete a Pre-College Training Program

The Kauffman Scholars program, funded by a $70 million endowment from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, offers a free college education to students who enroll in the program in seventh grade and remain in good standing until they graduate from high school. Students are subject to random drug tests and must stay out of trouble with the law, avoid early parenthood, and graduate from high school on time. Students must attend an after-school academy and Saturday classes, participate in community activities, take ACT test preparation classes, at the foundation’s expense, and go on field trips to seven universities that participate in the program. These universities actively recruit students who complete the program successfully.

The Kauffman Scholars program is open to any public school student in the Kansas City, Kansas, or Kansas City, Missouri, school district who is eligible for the free or reduced price federal lunch program. Students must have good attendance and behavior records and at least a C average in sixth grade. About 40 percent of the students participating in the program are black.

Students who successfully complete the program are counseled on college admissions and financial aid opportunities. If federal and state grants do not pay for the complete cost of the student’s higher education, the foundation will pay any remaining costs for up to five years of undergraduate study.

Participating universities in the program are Kansas State University, Missouri State University, Northwest Missouri State University, the University of Arkansas, Central Missouri University, the University of Missouri at Columbia, and the University of Missouri at Kansas City.


Black Entrepreneurs and the GOP Agree on at Least One Thing: The Repeal of the Estate Tax

For the past several years the Republican leadership in Congress has tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation that would eliminate the estate tax. Under present law the estate tax will decrease in the next several years and be totally eliminated in 2010, but just for one year. In 2011 the estate tax will jump back up to 55 percent.

The Republicans have some strange bedfellows in the fight to eliminate the estate tax. Eight members of the Congressional Black Caucus support the elimination of the tax. These black representatives believe that the estate tax serves to eliminate wealth generation in the black community. They argue that when a successful black entrepreneur dies, his or her heirs are often forced to sell off the family business in order to pay the estate tax. At times, whites are the only buyers for these businesses.

A 1997 study by researchers at Kennesaw State University in Georgia found that 90 percent of black entrepreneurs believed that the estate tax hinders the long-term growth prospects of their businesses. Only 61 percent of all small business owners agreed.


The Staying Power of To Kill a Mockingbird

Since its publication in 1960, the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has sold more than 30 million copies. As many as one million copies continue to be sold each year. In a 1991 survey of members of the Book of the Month club, respondents named To Kill a Mockingbird right behind the Bible as the book they read more frequently than any other. There are more than 1,500 customer reviews of the book posted at

The book relates the story of a white lawyer and his family in Alabama in the late 1950s. The white man, Atticus Finch, later played by Gregory Peck in the movie version of the novel, defends a black man wrongly accused of the rape of a white woman. The book was so controversial that in 1966 it was banned by the school district in Richmond, Virginia.

One of the reasons the book persists as a bestseller is that it is adopted by high school English classes across America. But the book also continues to find its way into the curriculum on college campuses.

A JBHE survey of the website of the eight Ivy League colleges found 691 references to either the book or the movie. There were more than 400 references on the University of Pennsylvania site alone. Dartmouth College had the fewest references with five. At Princeton, the book is used in the 300-level course Literature and Law.

In contrast, there is very little mention of To Kill a Mockingbird on the websites of the nation’s most prestigious black colleges. A JBHE search of the websites at Morehouse College and Spelman College found only one reference to the book on each site.


Professor Henry Louis Gates Seeks to Identify Blacks Who Served in the Continental Army

Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates Jr. has embarked on a new project to identify black soldiers who fought in George Washington’s Army during the Revolutionary War and their descendants. Gates believes that up to 10 percent of all troops in the Continental Army were African Americans. Yet there are only 30 blacks among the 27,000 members of the Sons of the American Revolution. There are 30 blacks among the 165,000 members of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The research project will examine pension applications filed by Revolutionary War veterans. These records will be cross-referenced with Census Bureau records that typically contain data on race.

Professor Gates was inducted into the Sons of the American Revolution this summer after he discovered he had a relative who fought in the War of Independence.


Voters Turning Against Ward Connerly’s Efforts to Outlaw Race-Sensitive Admissions at the University of Michigan

A new poll conducted by the Detroit Free Press finds dwindling support for the so-called Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. The referendum, scheduled to appear on the ballot this November, calls for an end to the consideration of race in hiring or contracting by any agency of the state government. The measure would also outlaw the use of race in admissions decisions at the University of Michigan and other state-operated colleges and universities. Ward Connerly, the African-American businessman who led the effort to ban race-sensitive admissions at the University of California, is president of the American Civil Rights Institute, the prime fundraising source for efforts to enact the Michigan initiative.

The poll found that 48 percent of voters opposed the measure whereas 43 were in favor of it. Men say they will vote to approve the referendum by a margin of 52 percent to 42 percent. But women oppose the measure by a wide margin. Whites are split down the middle on the initiative but blacks opposed it by a 3 to 1 margin.

Opponents of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative appear to be making headway in educating the public about adverse effects the measure will have in maintaining racial diversity in state government and in enrollments at state universities. This past March a poll conducted on behalf of a political newsletter in Michigan found that 55 percent of voters approved of the measure. A poll by the Detroit Free Press in 2003 found that two thirds of Michigan voters approved of the initiative.


5.3%  The percentage of all graduate school students in 1990 who were black.

10.2%  The percentage of all graduate school students in 2004 who were black.

source: U.S. Department of Education


Clarence Thomas II? A Black Nominee to the Federal Courts Who Is a Strong Opponent of Affirmative Action

Yet another nominee of President Bush to a high judicial post has come under fire. And this appointee is a black man.

Jerome A. Holmes is an attorney for Crowe & Dunlevy in Oklahoma City. He is an experienced trial lawyer serving 11 years as a federal prosecutor. He now specializes in defending corporations and individuals in white-collar crime cases. Holmes is a 1983 graduate of Wake Forest University. He earned his law degree at Georgetown University Law Center. He also holds a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Despite his credentials, civil rights groups are united in their opposition to President Bush’s nomination of Holmes to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is headquartered in Denver. The main reason civil rights groups oppose the Holmes nomination are his views on affirmative action. Writing in the Daily Oklahoman, Holmes said that the Supreme Court erred in its 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the use of race in the admissions process at the University of Michigan School of Law. Holmes wrote that the Court “missed an important opportunity to drive the final nail in the coffin of affirmative action.”

Holmes is also a strong supporter of the death penalty and school vouchers, two programs opposed by most civil rights organizations. He has also been critical of black leaders including Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson who, Holmes says, “peddle a misguided and dangerous message of victimization.”


In Memoriam

Joseph Cromwell Peters (1925-2006)

Joseph C. Peters, the former chair of the State College System Board of Directors in West Virginia, died late last month in Charleston, West Virginia. Peters, one of the first African Americans to serve in a high government post in West Virginia, was 81 years old.

Peters was a graduate of West Virginia State College and earned an MBA from the University of Wisconsin. He served in several positions in state government until his appointment in 1968 as commissioner on finance and administration, the highest budgetary post in the state government. He later was vice president for business affairs at Marshall University. After serving on the board of the state college system, Peters was named to the board of governors of Glenville State College.

Henry E. Cheaney (1912-2006)

Henry E. Cheaney, a long-time professor of history at Kentucky State University, died late last month at a hospital in Frankfort, Kentucky. He was 94 years old.

Professor Cheaney was one of the foremost authorities on African-American history in the state of Kentucky. He graduated from Kentucky State University in 1936 and was immediately hired by the KSU president to teach English. He remained on the KSU faculty until his retirement in 1982. In addition to teaching English and history, Cheaney served as coach of the college debate team and the college boxing team.

Cheaney held a master’s degree in history from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago.



Ronald D. Blanton, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, will be awarded a 2006 Emerald Award by Science Spectrum magazine at an awards dinner at the Baltimore Convention Center this September. The award recognizes Professor Blanton’s leadership in recruiting and mentoring blacks and other minorities for graduate study in the sciences and technology.






Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.