Sharp Drop-Off in Honorary Degree Awards to Blacks From the Nation’s Highest-Ranked Colleges and Universities

In the spring of 2006, 24 honorary degrees were awarded to blacks from the nation’s 30 highest-ranked universities and 30 highest-ranked liberal arts colleges. This is the lowest number of honorary degree awards to blacks since JBHE started tracking these statistics in 1994. In the 12 years that JBHE has surveyed the honorary degree awards of the nation’s top-rated colleges and universities, the number of awards bestowed on blacks has ranged from a high of 38 in 1996 to a low of 24 this year. The previous low was 28 honorary degrees to blacks.

Four high-ranking universities — Brown University, Harvard University, Northwestern University, and the University of Pennsylvania — each awarded honorary degrees to two African Americans this year.

Three black scholars were awarded honorary degrees from two high-ranking colleges or universities this spring. Winning two honorary degrees each were Henry Louis Gates Jr., Shirley Ann Jackson, and Robert Moses.