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A Look At A History Of Activism, Leadership, And The Future Of HBCUs

 Students and alumni of Howard University gather on campus to celebrate the victory of alum and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris with President-elect Joe Biden in 2020.
J. Scott Applewhite
AP Photo
Students and alumni of Howard University, alma mater of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, gather on campus to celebrate her victory with President-elect Joe Biden, Saturday evening, Nov. 7, 2020.

This episode originally aired on February 17, 2021

Historically Black Colleges and Universities have existed in the United States since 1837. Decades before the abolishment of slavery, these institutions promoted access to education, as a path toward freedom. Today, there are over 100 HBCUs across the country, graduating roughly 20% of Black students. So, what exactly are the institutions and why are they so important?

This hour, we’ll hear from a student and a professor at an HBCU in Texas who are drawing on their institution’s long history to protect voting rights. We’ll also learn more about the history of HBCUs – how they disrupted the notions of leadership and excellence to elevate Black communities.

Want to learn more about New Haven’s 1831 failed black college proposal? Click here to listen to “A People’s History of Dixwell” walking tour, voiced by Metropolitan Business Academy students in New Haven.


Maia Young – 2020 graduate of Prairie View A&M University

Dr. Melanye Price – Endowed political science professor at Prairie View A&M University, author of The Race Whisperer: Barack Obama and the Political Uses of Race, and “HBCUs Are Our Past – And Our Future”, a January article for Elle Magazine

Dr. Jelani M. Favors – Associate professor of history at Clayton State University and author of Shelter in a Time of Storm: How Black Colleges Fostered Generations of Leadership and Activism

This week's episode was produced by Daniela Luna and Catie Talarski. The rest of our team includes James Szkobel-Wolff and Zshekinah Collier. Our interns are Maisy Carvalho and Kelly Langevin.

Special thanks to Dameon Dillard, a 2020 graduate of Metropolitan High School in New Haven.

Catie Talarski is Senior Director of Storytelling and Radio Programming at Connecticut Public.
Dr. Khalilah L. Brown-Dean is an award-winning scholar at Wesleyan University, author, and host of 'Disrupted' on Connecticut Public.