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Foreign-Born Blacks in the United States Are a Highly Educated Group

About 17.6 percent of all black adults over the age of 25 in the United States hold at least a four-year college degree. For whites, the figure stands at a much higher rate of 30.6 percent.

But some groups of the black population in the United States do much better. Of the 21.2 million black adults in the United States over the age of 25, there are 2,406,000 blacks who were born in foreign countries. The figure means that foreign-born blacks — mostly from Africa or Caribbean nations — make up about 11 percent of the black population of this country. These foreign-born black adults are far more likely to have a college education than are native-born African Americans.

Overall, 22.6 percent of foreign-born black adults have at least a four-year college degree. If we break the figures down by gender, we find that 26 percent of foreign-born black men are college educated. This is very close to the educational attainment figures for native-born white men in this country. About 19 percent of foreign-born black women in the United States have a four-year college degree.

“The higher up the academic hierarchy one goes, the whiter the institution of scholarly society becomes. There is progress in higher education but the progress is incredibly, painfully slow. We have a long way to go until we see some kind of equity.”

Manning Marable, professor of public affairs, political science, history, and African-American studies at Columbia University, speaking at Rice University, February 20, 2007

Only African-American College Graduates Break the Traditional 2-to-1 Black-White Unemployment Gap

In 2006 blacks with only a high school diploma were nearly three times as likely to be unemployed as blacks with a four-year college degree. Blacks who have dropped out of high school are 4.6 times as likely to be unemployed as blacks with a bachelor’s degree.

Although blacks with a college degree are significantly less likely to be unemployed than their African-American peers with lower levels of education, this result says nothing about the state of the racial unemployment gap between blacks and whites. For the past half century the black unemployment rate has hovered at a level that is about twice the rate for whites. In good economic times and bad, there has been little fluctuation in this historical 2-to-1 ratio.

But in recent years there are indications that for one category of black workers, the 2-to-1 black-white unemployment ratio is not set in stone. In 2006, 2.8 percent of blacks with a college degree were unemployed. This was 1.4 times the rate for whites with a college degree. Blacks with only some college, but no degree, were still nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as whites. For high school graduates with no college experience, the racial unemployment rate for blacks was 2.2 times the rate for whites.

Black Colleges and Universities Are Embracing Distance Education

Distance education, the process of learning through either videoconferencing or the interactive use of the World Wide Web, has become a major force in higher education in the United States. Data collected by the Sloan Consortium finds that almost 3.2 million students were taking at least one online course in the fall of 2005. This was up 33 percent from 2004.

A new survey by the Digital Learning Lab at Howard University finds that 40 of the 103 black colleges surveyed are now offering some distance education classes. In 2006 only 29 black colleges were involved in distance education.

According to the Howard University survey, there are 10 black colleges and universities that have distance education programs in which students can earn a bachelor’s degree taking all, or almost all, of their classes online. There are eight black colleges that offer distance education programs leading to graduate degrees.

Distance education programs for doctoral degree candidates are now available at Howard University (pharmacy), North Carolina A&T State University (technology management), and South Carolina State University (educational administration).

Blacks Are At an Extreme Disadvantage Compared to Whites in Their Ability to Use Home Equity to Finance Higher Education

Home equity has become a major factor in financing higher education in the United States. Tax-deductible home equity loans are often used by middle- and upper-middle-class families to help pay for the cost of higher education.

But here African Americans are at a major disadvantage. New statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that not only are blacks far less likely than whites to own their home, but when they do own a home, the value of the home is only a fraction of the average value of homes owned by whites.

According to the data, nearly 74 percent of whites owned their home in 2004 compared to 46.4 percent of blacks. For those who did own a home, the median value of white residences was $153,693. For blacks, the median home value was $105,532.

These figures do not tell us how much equity blacks and whites have in their homes that they can use to help finance their children’s education, but the data shows that clearly blacks are at an extreme disadvantage in this important facet of American wealth.

University of Chicago Honors One of Its Most Distinguished African-American Graduates

A portrait and a plaque honoring J. Ernest Wilkins Jr. were unveiled earlier this month in the Eckhart Hall Tea Room on the campus of the University of Chicago.

Wilkins was the son of J. Ernest Wilkins Sr., who served as assistant secretary of labor during the Eisenhower administration. At the age of 13, the young Wilkins Jr. enrolled at the University of Chicago in 1936. He received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at age 17, his master’s at age 18, and his Ph.D. at age 19.

After doing postgraduate work at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Wilkins joined the faculty of the Tuskegee Institute. During World War II he worked on the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb.

After the war Wilkins continued to conduct nuclear research for the Atomic Energy Commission. He earned a second bachelor’s degree and a second master’s degree in mechanical engineering at New York University.

Later in his career Wilkins served on the faculty at Howard University and Clark University. Wilkins retired from teaching in 2003 and is now 83 years old.

New Evidence on the First Black Graduate of the University of Texas

It has generally been considered that in May 1952 John S. Chase was the first African American to earn a degree of any kind from the University of Texas. Chase was a graduate of Hampton University, the historically black educational institution in Virginia. He enrolled at the University of Texas School of Architecture in 1950. Chase went on to become a successful architect in Houston.

But now new evidence has come to light which shows that geneticist Oscar Leonard Thompson earned his master’s degree at the university in January 1952, four months before Chase received his degree.

Thompson was born in 1907. His father died in a mill accident when Thompson was only 2 years old. He enrolled at Paul Quinn College in 1928 but was forced to leave before graduating due to the Great Depression. He worked at a number of odd jobs until the onset of World War II during which he served in the Pacific.

At the end of the war Thompson returned to Texas and completed his studies at Paul Quinn College under the GI Bill. He enrolled in the graduate school at the University of Texas in September 1950. In December 1951 he turned in his master’s thesis with the title “A Study of Phenylthiocarbamide Taste Deficiency in a Negro Population and in Family Groups.”

Thompson had a brief but successful career in genetics, specializing in research on sickle-cell anemia. He died in 1962 at the age of 55.

Faculty Senate Calls for the Ouster of Howard University President

The head of the faculty senate at Howard University is calling for the ouster of university president H. Patrick Swygert. In a letter to the board of trustees, Theodore Bremner, chair of the senate, wrote that it is time to end “an intolerable condition of incompetence and dysfunction at the highest level.” The letter states that the president ignores the faculty senate, mismanages federal research grants, and has jeopardized the financial condition of the institution. The senate had voted 16 to 2 to send the letter.

H. Patrick Swygert has been president of Howard University since 1995. He is a graduate of the university and the university’s law school.


Lonnie Wilkinson was promoted to dean of the school of architecture at Southern University at Baton Rouge. Wilkinson, an assistant professor, was serving as interim dean.

Pamela P. Dale Shaw was promoted to assistant provost at Purdue University. Since coming to Purdue in 2003, Shaw has been the director of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.

A graduate of Purdue, Shaw holds a master’s degree in public health and a doctor of dental medicine degree from the University of Kentucky.

Betty Kelly Austin was named director of athletics at Alabama A&M University. A graduate of the university, Austin is an assistant professor of health, physical education, and recreation, as well as the head coach of the women’s volleyball team.

Freddie L. Parker, professor of history at North Carolina Central University, was reappointed by Governor Mike Easley to a five-year term as a member of the North Carolina Historical Commission. Professor Parker is a graduate of North Carolina Central University and also holds a master’s degree from that institution. He earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.



JBHE’s Annual Citation Rankings of Black Scholars in the Social Sciences

Each year Thomson Scientific (formerly the Institute for Scientific Information) in Philadelphia enters information on more than 30 million citations from over 1.3 million published papers in a wide variety of academic fields. Citations from 8,500 academic journals are routinely read, counted, and analyzed. JBHE, in turn, searches this database to determine how many times the works of a particular black scholar have been cited in any given year.

As we have done since 1993, JBHE recently conducted a database search of Thomson Scientific’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Index for the citation counts of dozens of black scholars in this discipline. In each of the past 12 surveys that JBHE conducted on black scholars in the social sciences, we determined that the leader in rankings was Professor William Julius Wilson, the sociologist formerly at the University of Chicago who now is University Professor at Harvard University. The results this year are unchanged. Once more, the citation count leader is Professor Wilson with a total of 303 citations in academic journals. Professor Wilson’s citation count decreased by three from the previous year’s count.

David R. Williams, Norman Professor of Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health, had 287 citations in this year’s count, which placed him second among black scholars in the social sciences.

Rounding out the top 10 in citation rankings among black scholars in the social sciences are Claude M. Steele, Cornel West, Elijah Anderson, Vonnie McLoyd, Paul Gilroy, Lawrence Bobo, Randall Kennedy, and Kimberle Crenshaw.

The Declining Racial Income Gap for Graduate Degree Holders

In 2004 blacks with a master’s degree had a median income of $49,716. This was 98 percent of the median income of non-Hispanic whites with a master’s degree. Furthermore, in 2004, the racial income gap for master’s degree holders closed substantially. In 2003 blacks with a master’s degree had a median income than was 88 percent of the median income of whites who possessed a master’s degree.

In 2004 blacks with a professional degree had a median income of $72,749. This was 95 percent of the median income of whites with a professional degree. In 2004 black professionals increased their median income by a whopping 18 percent.

There is also an income gap between blacks and whites who hold doctoral degrees. But this time the racial gap is in favor of blacks. In 2004 blacks with a doctorate had a median income of $74,207. This was slightly higher than the median income of whites with doctoral degrees, which stands at $73,993. The high demand for black academics at American colleges and universities produces a good job market with high wages for blacks with doctoral degrees.

Movin’ On Up: Mobility Rates of African-American College Graduates

In the 2000 to 2005 period, slightly more than a third of the adult white population of the United States moved from one residence to another. But blacks in the United States have been more likely to move than whites. From 2000 to 2005, nearly 39 percent of adult African Americans moved from one residence to another.

When we factor in educational attainment, we discover some interesting differences between blacks and whites. Nearly 40 percent of black adults who graduated from high school but had no college experience moved in the 2000 to 2005 period. For whites, less than 30 percent of similarly educated adults moved.

For college graduates, both blacks and whites are slightly more likely to have moved than their respective population as a whole. But the racial gap in moving rates almost entirely disappears. For adult blacks with a college degree, 40.3 percent moved in the five-year period. For white college graduates, 39.7 percent changed residences. Blacks and whites with a graduate or professional degree also had almost identical rates of mobility.

It appears that for highly educated blacks, employment and housing opportunities are now equal to those of similarly educated whites. Therefore, their rates of mobility tend to converge.

30.4%  Percentage of all foreign-born blacks in the United States in 2004 whose native country was in Africa.

66.3%  Percentage of all foreign-born blacks in the United States in 2004 whose native country was in Latin America.

source: U.S. Census Bureau

Number of Black Applicants Soars at Penn

The University of Pennsylvania reported that it received 22,427 applications for this fall’s entering class. This was an overall increase of 10 percent. But black applicants to Penn increased 20 percent compared to a year ago.

There are 210 black students in this year’s entering class. They make up 8.8 percent of all freshmen. The percentage of blacks in the freshman class at Penn has increased each year since 2002.

Vanderbilt University Partners With the University of Cape Town to Increase the Number of Black Astronomers

Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, has formed a partnership with its crosstown counterpart, historically black Fisk University, in a program to increase the number of black students pursuing Ph.D.s in the physical sciences.

Now Vanderbilt has agreed to a similar program with the University of Cape Town to bring more blacks from South Africa into the field of astronomy.

Under the program Vanderbilt will partner with the University of Cape Town in research projects, faculty exchanges, and opportunities for students from both countries to study abroad at the partner institution.

Vanderbilt hopes to establish similar relationships with as many as 10 universities worldwide over the next several years.

Historically Black University in North Carolina Planting the Seeds for a Biotechnology Company Based on Its Research Patents

North Carolina A&T State University has taken the first steps to profit from its research in biotechnology. The university has formed a company called Provagen that plans to commercialize technology developed by university researchers in its agricultural sciences division. The new company hopes to market antibody binding proteins which can be used to treat animal diseases.

Start-up funds and business leadership for the new company will be provided by a new state program that encourages the state’s public universities to start commercial ventures based on scientific patents they have secured.

The president of the new firm will be John Allen, a professor in the department of animal sciences at North Carolina A&T who developed the new technology.

A Battle Plan for Increasing the Number of Black Students at the U.S. Military Academies

The current first-year class at the U.S. Naval Academy started out with 1,215 members. Of these, 77, or 6.3 percent, are black. At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, 79, or just under 6 percent, of the 1,327 first-year cadets are black. At the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, 60 of the 1,302 entering students are black. They make up 4.6 percent of the first-year class.

Congressman Elijah Cummings of Baltimore, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee and is on the board of visitors of the Naval Academy, believes that the service academies rely too heavily on SAT scores as a barometer of whom to admit.

The mean score of entering students at the service academies on the reading and mathematics portion of the SAT is about 1280. But only 12 percent of all African-American students who take the SAT score 1000 or higher. And there is stiff competition from scores of colleges and universities for black students who score 1200 or higher on the SAT.

Representative Cummings believes that the academies must begin to recruit high-performing black students in the eighth and ninth grade and to steer these students into the high school curriculum that will prepare them to meet the academies’ entrance requirements.


Alvin Blount Jr. received the Human Rights Medal from North Carolina A&T State University. Blount, a graduate of the university, went on to the Howard University School of Medicine. In 1962 he successfully sued Moses H. Cone Hospital in Greensboro because it did not permit black physicians to perform operations in the facility.

Blount, now 85 years old, no longer performs surgery. However, he still practices medicine at a healthcare center in Guilford.

Frank S. Franklin, assistant to the provost at Queens College, a division of the City University of New York, was the recipient of the Greater New York Inter-Alumni Council’s Distinguished Alumni Award from the United Negro College Fund. Franklin received the award for his work as director of the college’s Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge (SEEK) program.

Franklin is a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. He holds a master’s degree in education from CUNY’s Baruch College.

Bernard J. LaFayette Jr., distinguished scholar in residence and director of the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies at the University of Rhode Island, was the recipient of the Thurgood Marshall Award from Quinnipiac University School of Law. LaFayette was a leader in the 1960s sit-in movement in Nashville when he was a student at American Baptist Theological Seminary. He later participated in the Freedom Rides. He holds master’s and doctoral degrees in education from Harvard University.


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