A Conversation with The President

HBCUs: A Sense of Place

Soraya McDonald shares the significance of HBCUs ahead of The Undefeated’s conversation with President Obama

Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, I had enormous reverence for North Carolina A&T ever since the first time I visited the campus during homecoming as a high school student. It really was a different world – the girls seemed so impossibly poised and adult, and they made me wonder if I could ever be like them.

After getting older and graduating from Howard University, this is what I came to realize: Some may ask what purpose historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) serve 62 years after the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. They teach and celebrate a history that elsewhere still gets blithely compartmentalized into the shortest month of the year. Within their gates are environs wallpapered with the radical notions of racial justice and equality. Ever since their inception, our nation’s HBCUs have been crucial in making those ideas go viral simply by fostering spaces in which they were the norm, sending alumni into the world who would accept no less than full recognition in their humanity. As many of today’s black youths are still subject to the racial wealth gap, the effects of resegregation in education and the legacy of housing discrimination and segregation, HBCUs remain uniquely equipped to help such students. For them, these trials are familiar ones dating to the Civil War. And as we look ahead into the future, as President Obama said Tuesday, it’s HBCUs that will play a crucial role in leading us there.


President Obama talks race, sports and being Undefeated by Michael A. Fletcher