The Persisting Racial Gap in Educational Attainment

New census data shows that African Americans have made tremendous progress in educational attainment but still trail white Americans by a large margin. Nearly 16 percent of all black adults over the age of 25 never completed high school. This is nearly double the rate of whites.

The data shows that 19.3 percent of black adults over the age of 25 have completed a four-year college education. For whites the figure is 32.9 percent.


Racial Identity and the U.S. Census Bureau

In 2000 the U.S. Census Bureau, for the first time, gave respondents the opportunity to select more than one race on the census form. That year, more than 7 million people checked off more than one race. This was about 2.3 percent of all respondents.

This year the Census Bureau expects more Americans to self-identify themselves as biracial. But Barack Obama is not one of them. Obama, who had a black African father and a white mother, checked only the option “Black, African Am., or Negro.”


University of Memphis Makes Amends

In 1957 Maxine Smith was denied admission to the graduate program of what is now the University of Memphis. Despite the fact that Smith had graduated second in her class at Spelman College and held a master’s degree from Middlebury College, the president of the University of Memphis at that time told her she was not qualified to attend the educational institution. This rejection energized Smith and transformed her into an advocate for civil rights. She became the executive secretary of the Memphis branch of the NAACP where she participated in movements to desegregate schools, lunch counters, transportation facilities, and public accommodations in the city. She later served as the first black member of the city board of education and was elected to two terms to the Tennessee board of regents.

This month, the University of Memphis, which denied her admission 53 years ago, honored Smith with an honorary doctorate.


Professor Calls on the University of Texas to Rename a Dormitory That Honors a Former Ku Klux Klan Organizer

Simkins Hall dormitory, built in 1954 on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, was named for a former university law professor, William Stewart Simkins. But Simkins was a Confederate Army officer and also a major figure in the Ku Klux Klan. In a 1916 article in the University of Texas alumni magazine, Simkins admitted that when a white woman was insulted by a Negro man in his presence, he “seized a barrel stave and whipped that darkey down the street.” Simkins also admitted participating in horseback raids as a hooded Klansman, striking terror in black communities.

Professor Thomas Russell, currently on the faculty of the University of Denver, has published a paper calling on the University of Texas to rename the building. Professor Russell taught at the University of Texas from 1991 to 2001.

The university has announced that it will form a committee of students, faculty, and administrators that will make a recommendation about whether to change the name of Simkins Hall.

UC Davis Funds Programs to Fight Intolerance on Campus

The University of California at Davis has announced a new initiative to fight hate and intolerance on campus. The university will provide $230,000 annually, divided among three organizations: the Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center; the Black Student Union; and the Office of Campus Community Relations. The initiative will fund campus events and training programs designed to foster better relations between diverse groups at the university.

Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi stated when announcing the new programs and funding, “I am confident that investing in a safer, more welcoming campus community will yield returns that are critical to advancing our commitment to diversity and excellence.”


The Three Finalists for the Presidency of Florida Memorial University

Florida Memorial University, the historically black educational institution in Miami Gardens, Florida, has announced three finalists for the position of university president. There were 80 applicants for the job. The college board of trustees expects the new president will be named in June.

Following are brief biographies of the three finalists:

Lawrence Davenport is executive vice president at the consulting firm Neher & Associates. He has served as chief operating officer at Florida Atlantic University.

Stacey Franklin Jones is senior vice president at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. She has been on the computer science department faculty at Johns Hopkins University.

Lester C. Newman is vice president of academic affairs at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee. Dr. Newman is the former president of Mississippi Valley State University. He is a graduate of Southern University and holds a master’s degree and a doctorate in political science from Atlanta University.

5.3%  Black percentage of all instructional faculty at the nation’s colleges and universities in 2003.

5.4%  Black percentage of all instructional faculty at the nation’s colleges and universities in 2007.

source:U.S. Department of Education


In Memoriam

Harold Powell (1932-2010)

Harold Powell, a longtime faculty member at South Carolina State University, died earlier this month at a hospital in Orangeburg, South Carolina. He was 77 years old.

Dr. Powell was a native of Jacksonboro, South Carolina. After high school, he served in the U.S. Air Force for six years. After leaving the service, he enrolled at South Carolina State University, graduating first in his class in 1961. During his undergraduate years, he received a grade of A in every course, except for one grade of B in physical education. He went on to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. He was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in speech pathology and audiology at Penn State.

Dr. Powell joined the faculty at South Carolina State University in 1965. He founded and chaired the university’s department of speech pathology.


Honors and Awards

This September, William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard, will receive the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award for nonfiction from the Cleveland Foundation.

• Raymond L. Blakely, professor and chair of the department of physical therapy at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, received the University System of Maryland Regents’ Faculty Award for mentoring.

Dr. Blakely is a graduate of Ohio University with a degree in zoology. He holds master’s degrees from New York University and Xavier University and a Ph.D. in physical therapy from NYU.

• Paul Delaney, veteran journalist and former chair of the department of journalism at the University of Alabama, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalists. Delaney spent 23 years as a reporter and editor at The New York Times.

• Beverly Hendrix, director of diversity for Frederick Community College in Maryland, received the Lord D. Nickens Community Service Award from the Frederick County Human Relations Commission.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Hendrix has led the diversity programs at the college for the past decade.

• Antoine Alston, an assistant professor of agriscience education at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

Dr. Alston holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from North Carolina A&T State University and a doctorate in agricultural education from Iowa State University.

• Cornel West, Class of 1943 University Professor at Princeton University, received the inaugural Fields Memorial Award for Social Justice from Princeton’s Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding.


Grants and Gifts

The University of Illinois at Chicago received a $9.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a research project concerning health disparities among low-income and minority women with breast cancer in Chicago.

• Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey, received a $100,000 donation from Ken Hitchner, a member of its board of trustees. The money will be used to establish the Conference Series on Race. The conferences, which will deal with issues of race in higher education, will be held for at least the next seven years. The first conference is scheduled for this coming November.

It Appears That There Are No Blacks Among the New Class of NAS Fellows

Recently the National Academy of Sciences announced the election of 72 new members. Scholars selected for membership are honored for their contributions to scientific research. The National Academy of Sciences does not disclose data on the race of new inductees or of its total membership. But according to JBHE research it appears that not one of the 72 new members of the National Academy of Sciences is an African American.

All told, the National Academy of Sciences now has 2,097 members. JBHE’s count shows that seven of the academy’s 2,097 members, or 0.3 percent, are black. Since 2004, according to JBHE’s count, there have been no black members elected to the National Academy of Sciences.


“I self-identify as African American. That’s how I’m treated, and that’s how I’m viewed. I’m proud of it.”

President Barack Obama, explaining his views on racial identity (See story below.)


The New Executive Director of the African Studies Association

Karen Jenkins was named executive director of the African Studies Association, which is based at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The association publishes books and the periodicals African Studies Review and History in Africa.

Jenkins recently served as senior consultant to the Oxford University Study Abroad Programme. Previously she was assistant provost for international programs and summer college at the College of New Jersey. She also has served as an administrator at Dickinson College and St. Olaf College.

Jenkins is a graduate of Fisk University. She holds a master’s degree in international relations from Yale University and a law degree from Rutgers University.


College Honors Slave Who Accompanied Lewis and Clark

In the early years of the nineteenth century, a slave named York accompanied Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their famous exploration of the American Northwest. This spring, Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, has dedicated a statue to honor York. Alison Saar, a Los Angeles-based sculptor, created a six-foot-tall brass figure standing on a rock and holding a rifle. The sculpture, entitled “York: Terra Incognita,” was erected outside the Watzek Library on the Lewis and Clark campus.

It is not known if York was freed or sold at the end of the expedition.

Lamar University Holds Summer Mathematics Camp for Minority High School Students

Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, offers a three-week summer camp in mathematics for minority and low-income students. The Lamar Achievement in Mathematics Program is for mathematically talented students in grades 10 through 12. About 25 students participate in intensive mathematics training in courses such as game theory, number theory, geometry, and problem solving. In addition to classroom study, the high school students participate in field trips to local businesses where they use their mathematical skills to solve practical applications. The mathematics camp is free to accepted students.


Nikki Giovanni Contributes Her Intellectual Property Rights to Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech in Blacksburg announced that Nikki Giovanni, University Distinguished Professor, has donated her intellectual property rights to the university. As a result, all permission requests for publishing rights to her poetry, essays, books, and recordings will be processed by the chair of the English department at Virginia Tech.

In addition, a fund with a value in excess of $800,000 will be established to honor Giovanni and English department colleague Virginia Fowler. The fund will provide scholarships for women and minority students in the humanities at Virginia Tech.


Oberlin College’s First Black Graduate Admitted Posthumously to the Pennsylvania Bar

George Boyer Vashon was born in 1824 to a white father and a biracial mother. Under the racial codes of the day, Vashon was considered black. In 1844 Vashon became the first black graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio. After graduation he returned to his native Pennsylvania to study law under the tutelage of a local judge. In 1847 Vashon sought admission to the Pennsylvania bar association. He was denied because of his “Negro descent.”

Vashon moved to New York and a year later became the first African American admitted to the bar in that state. He later taught at New York Central College, Howard University, and Alcorn State University. He also served as president of Avery College in Pittsburgh.

Vashon died of yellow fever in 1878. He was 34 years old.

This month the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered that Vashon be admitted posthumously to the Pennsylvania bar.



Howard University’s Plan to Relocate Its Medical School

Next year the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., will close. Operations will be transferred to the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the grounds of the Bethesda Naval Hospital in nearby Maryland. The land and buildings will become the property of the District of Columbia.

Historically black Howard University has proposed that its hospital and medical school as well as its nursing and pharmacy schools be moved to the 62-acre campus of the current Walter Reed Army Medical Center. However, 22 other organizations have expressed interest in the Walter Reed location.


Historically Black University Teams Up With the University of Arkansas to Offer New Dual Degree Program in the Geosciences

Historically black Fort Valley State University in Georgia has announced a new agreement for a combined dual degree program in geosciences with the University of Arkansas. Students would spend three years on the Fort Valley State campus taking courses in liberal arts, mathematics, and sciences. They would then transfer to the University of Arkansas for two additional years of study in the geosciences. Participants in the program would receive bachelor’s degrees from each institution.


African-American Professor Is Nominated for a Tony Award

Stephen McKinley Henderson, professor of theatre and dance at the University of Buffalo, has been nominated for a Tony Award for his performance as Jim Bono in the Broadway revival of August Wilson’s play, “Fences.” The performance has already earned Professor Henderson the 2010 Richard Seff Award from the Actor’s Equity Foundation.

Professor Henderson is a graduate of Purdue University.

The Tony Awards ceremony will be held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on June 13.


Appointments, Promotions, and Resignations

• Judith A. Wubah was named director of pre-health advising in the department of career services at Virginia Tech. She was an assistant professor of anatomy and cell biology at the College of Medicine of the University of Florida.

Dr. Wubah is a graduate of the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. She holds a master’s degree in biology from the University of Akron and a Ph.D. in development biology/teratology from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

• Renée T. White, professor of sociology and director of the black studies program at Fairfield University in Connecticut, has been named the university’s first academic coordinator for diversity and global citizenship.

A graduate of Brown University, Professor White holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Yale University.

• Barbara J. Ellis was appointed interim vice chancellor for information technology at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. She is president of her own consulting firm and has had an extensive career as an executive with IBM.

A graduate of North Carolina A&T, she holds an MBA from Pace University.

• Ashley Robinson was named director of athletic compliance at Prairie View A&M University in Texas. He was the compliance director at Mississippi Valley State University and served as the assistant commissioner for compliance for the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

• Robert Lindsey, assistant professor of health education at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, was elected to the board of directors of the American Association for Health Education.

• Jacqueline McMillan was promoted to vice president for enrollment management at Wright State University in Kent, Ohio. She was associate provost at the university.

McMillan is a graduate of Wilberforce University. She holds a master’s degree from Central Michigan University and is completing her doctorate at the Union Institute.

• Percy Caldwell was named director of athletics at Fort Valley State University in Georgia. He previously served as interim director of athletics at Miles College and director of athletics at Winston-Salem State University.

A graduate of Miles College, Dr. Caldwell holds a master’s degree from the University of Alabama Birmingham and a doctorate from Iowa State University.

• Roland Gaines, vice president for student affairs at Florida A&M University, has announced that he will retire at the end of the academic year. He has worked as an administrator in higher education for 36 years, all but eight at Florida A&M.



Copyright © 2010. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.