Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Real Talk Tuesday: First Lady Michelle Obama at Tuskegee University

May 12th, 2015 by Ajuan Mance


(Source: NBC News)

On Saturday, May 9, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the commencement address at Alabama’s Tuskegee University. Her comments at the historically Black institution, established in 1881 by educator and author Booker T. Washington, evoked the controversial founder’s themes of self-reliance, but with a 21st-century candor about the reality and intransigence of both individual and institutional racism.

WBUR’s Here and Now covered the First Lady’s speech in this report:

First Lady Michelle Obama at Tuskegee University Commencement 2015


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Black Lives (Always) Matter

December 22nd, 2014 by Ajuan Mance

At this watershed moment in the national and international conversation on race, it is absolutely critical for me to state clearly and unequivocally that, for those of us who research and write about the Black past, the entire reason we do what we do is because BLACK LIVES MATTER.

The belief fundamental truth that gets us up and out of bed every morning, that gets us through those long days spent combing through archives and databases, that keeps us seated at the keyboard through weeks of writing and editing, and that drives our passion as classroom teachers, community activists, bloggers, and journalists can be stated as simply as this:


And Black is still beautiful.

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The Quotable Black Scholar: Omotayo Banjo on the History of Violence Against Black Men

December 7th, 2014 by Ajuan Mance

Omotayo Banjo, Assistant Professor of Communication, University of Cincinnati.


I was in my Penn State graduate computer lab when I learned of the death of Sean Bell. I groaned with disappointment and immediately expressed my frustration to my fellow graduate students who were Asian and white. I told them the story of a young man in New York who was shot 50 times by police when coming home from his bachelor party at 3 a.m.

The police thought he was someone else.

My fellow white, male graduate student replied, “Well, what was he doing out so late?”

I cannot forget the heat with which my blood boiled at this dismissive question. It was my first lesson in the paradox of the intelligentsia. One can study and read to be enlightened and still be very blind.

–From “UC Communication Professor: Eric Garner, Michael Brown stir echoes of Sean Bell, Emmett Till,” WCPO Cincinnati.


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Flashback Friday: Isaac Lawrence Purcell and the Higher Ed. Color Line

January 18th, 2013 by Ajuan Mance

Attorney Isaac Lawrence Purcell (1857-1930)


Among the African American men and women profiled in Dr. D.W. Culp’s Twentieth Century Negro Literature; Or, a Cyclopedia of Thought on the Vital Topics Relating to the American Negro (1902) is attorney Isaac Lawrence Purcell. Purcell’s post-secondary education exemplifies the South’s rapid action to roll back the civil rights gains made by Black people immediately after the end of the Civil War. There is no coincidence that Purcell and other African American students were ousted from South Carolina in 1877, the year that the Hayes-Tilden Compromise effectively ended Reconstruction.  Culp recounts Purcell’s struggles and achievements in the following profile:

Isaac Lawrence Purcell, the subject of this sketch, was born July 17, 1857, in Winnsboro, S. C. His father, John W. Purcell, by occupation a carpenter, was born in 1832 in Charleston, S. C., being one of the old free families.

Isaac Lawrence first attended a school provided by the Episcopal Church for Colored youths. He afterwards attended the public schools of his city and, in 1871, entered Brainard Institute, Chester, S. C., where he remained one term. In 1872 he entered Biddle University at Charlotte, N. C., where he remained until in the Fall of 1873, when the color line was removed at the South Carolina University. He entered the competitive examination for the scholarship in the South Carolina University from his county, being the only Colored applicant. In the Fall of 1873 he entered the South Carolina University, where he remained until the Spring of 1877, when the act of the Legislature of the State went into effect again drawing the color line, so he with the other Colored boys had to leave.

Mr. Purcell returned home, and under his father’s instructions learned the carpenter’s trade. He went to Palatka, Fla., in 1885, where he studied law, and was admitted to practice law in the Circuit and inferior courts October 8, 1889, and at once commenced the active work of his chosen profession at Palatka, Fla.

At the first term of the Circuit Court after his admittance he represented plaintiffs in several large damage suits, two against the city of Palatka; in both he got verdict for his clients; one was appealed to the Supreme Court. He was admitted to the State Supreme Court January 19, 1891, where he has successfully represented many cases. January 19, 1897, he was admitted to the United States Circuit and District Courts, and November 8, 1901, was duly admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States. He has represented some of the most important cases coming before the courts of his State. He came to Pensacola, his present home, in February, 1899, and has by his energy and ability built up a fine and growing business.

In politics he is a Republican, and has attended as a delegate every State, congressional and county convention since coming to the State, several times presided over State and congressional conventions, was for twelve years chairman of the Republican Executive Committee of his county, Putnam. For many years an alderman of the city of Palatka, Fla. In 1895 he was elected as a delegate to the Republican National Convention which convened in St. Louis, 1896. He has never held any office of profit, always honest and fearless in his opinions and his advocacy of right.

His private life has always been consistent; while not a member of any religious denomination, always attends the services of the Episcopal Church; is a temperate man; is generous and kind in disposition; was married October 24, 1895, to Miss E. L. Andrews, of Orangeburg, S. C.

Ajuan Mance


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Wordless Wednesday: Mrs. Mary B. Talbert

January 15th, 2013 by Ajuan Mance

Mrs. Mary B. Talbert (1866-1923), suffragist, activist, and early Oberlin College graduate (class of 1886).

(Source: Twentieth Century Negro Literature: Or, A Cyclopedia of Thought on the Vital Topics Relating to the American Negro by Daniel Wallace Culp)


–Ajuan Mance

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Black Women to Watch in 2013

January 15th, 2013 by Ajuan Mance

For people of African descent in U.S. higher education, 2012 will be remembered as a year in which African American women students made important strides in higher education, even as many institutions faced funding issues, affirmative action challenges, and difficulty retaining students and faculty of color. The following are just a few of the young Black women whose pioneering achievements in the year 2012 hold the promise of even greater things to come:



Dr. Kyla McMullen: In the spring of 2012 Dr. McMullen became the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is now an assistant professor in the Human-Centered Computing Division in the Clemson University School of Computing.


(Source: Associated Press/Daily Mail)

Courtney Pearson: In the fall of 2012, this senior became the first African American student elected homecoming queen at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). Her mother, father, and stepfather are all Ole Miss alumni. Nearly 50 years to the day after James Meredith was escorted onto the Mississippi campus by a contingent of U.S. Marshals ordered to protect him, Pearson was escorted out to the center of the Ole Miss football field by her father, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kerri Pearson, to be crowned homecoming queen for the 2012-2013 school year.


(Source: Penn State Energy and Mineral Engineering)

Kimberly Grant: In December, Kimberly Grant became the first African American woman student to graduate with a degree in Mining Engineering from Penn State University. The Philadelphia native plans to use her B.S. to become involved in mining safety research and development. She plans to eventually earn an M.S. in Mining Engineering, and she hopes to serve as a role model to encourage inner-city youth to pursue degrees in the sciences.


Ajuan Mance

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English, the Number One Major for Return on Investment

January 10th, 2013 by Ajuan Mance has compiled a list of the eight college majors that provide the greatest Return on Investment (ROI). In an article that challenges the national ambivalence about the value of a humanities-centered education, the online magazine has listed English as the major that provides the greatest ROI. The following is the explanation of the value of the English major:


1. English

What could be better? For four years you do lots of writing and reading, you talk about writing and reading, then follow up with more writing and reading. Then, the sky’s the limit. Common jobs held by English majors include:

Median Salary: $78,011
30-Year Earnings: $4,601,086
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 122%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 37%

Median Salary: $88,498
30-Year Earnings: $5,219,609
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 139%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 42%

Median Salary: $79,674
30-Year Earnings: $4,699,170
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Public College: 125%
ROI of Degree Earner Attending Private College: 38%

The other seven majors with the greatest ROI are:

8. Math

7. Information Technology

6. Human Resources

5. Economics

4. Biology

3. Engineering

2. Marketing

–Ajuan Mance

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Wordless Wednesday: Miss Southern University, 1930

January 9th, 2013 by Ajuan Mance


Miss Southern University, 1930

(Source: HBCU Library Alliance)


–Ajuan Mance

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The Quotable Black Scholar: John McWhorter on Racial Progress

January 8th, 2013 by Ajuan Mance

Manhattan Institute Expert and Columbia University Professor John McWhorter



When Newt Gingrich says that housing project people don’t work, our job is to show that they do. When he says that Obama is the “food stamp” president, our job is to show that most food stamp recipients are white. When Ron Paul writes that we’re about to start rioting again, we are to make sure that everybody knows we’re not.

In other words, although this isn’t the lesson usually taken from these recent episodes, it would appear that we are getting more comfortable admitting that progress happens for us. Real progress, even if racism still exists, as it always will. And not just symbolic progress, such as having a black president. When we get angry at whites depicting us as poster children, we are saying that being black is less of a problem in 2012, even if it occasionally still is one.

–John McWhorter, “Segregation is Down. Great News, Right?” The, January 30, 2012


Biographical Notes: John McWhorter is Associate Professor in the English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. He is also a Manhattan Institute Expert. He holds a B.A. in French from Rutgers University, an M.A. in American Studies from New York University, and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Stanford University. He has previously taught at Cornell University and the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of a number of journalistic essays, opinion pieces, and scholarly articles. He has also published fifteen books. They are:

  • 1997: Towards a New Model of Creole Genesis
  • 1998: Word on the Street: Debunking the Myth of “Pure” Standard English
  • 2000: The Missing Spanish Creoles: Recovering the Birth of Plantation Contact Languages
  • 2000: Spreading the Word : Language and Dialect in America
  • 2000: Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America
  • 2001: The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language
  • 2003: Authentically Black: Essays for the Black Silent Majority
  • 2003: Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care
  • 2005: Defining Creole
  • 2005: Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America
  • 2007: Language Interrupted: Signs of Non-Native Acquisition in Standard Language Grammars
  • 2008: All About the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can’t Save Black America
  • 2008: Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English
  • 2011: What Language Is (And What It Isn’t and What It Could Be)
  • 2011: Linguistic Simplicity and Complexity: Why Do Languages Undress?

–Ajuan Mance

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The Quotable Black Scholar: Adolph L. Reed, Jr. on Race, Republicanism, and Rep. Tim Scott

January 7th, 2013 by Ajuan Mance

University of Pennsylvania Political Science Professor Adolph L. Reed, Jr.

(Source: UIC Institue for the Humanities)


I suspect that appointments like Mr. Scott’s are directed less at blacks — whom they know they aren’t going to win in any significant numbers — than at whites who are inclined to vote Republican but don’t want to have to think of themselves, or be thought of by others, as racist.

–Adolph L. Reed, Jr., “The Puzzle of Black Republicans,” The New York Times, December 18, 2012


Biographical Notes: Adolph L. Reed, Jr. is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Atlanta University. He is the author and editor of several books, including: Class Notes: Posing as Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene (New Press, 2000); Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era (University of Minnesota Press, 1999); Without Justice for All: The New Liberalism and our Retreat from Racial Equality (editor, Westview Press, 1999); W.E.B. Du Bois and American Political Thought: Fabianism and the Color Line (Oxford University Press, 1997); The Jesse Jackson Phenomenon: The Crisis of Purpose in Afro-American Politics (Yale University Press, 1986); and Race, Politics and Culture: Critical Essays on the Radicalism of the 1960s (editor, Greenwood Press, 1986). W.E.B. Du Bois and American Political Thought was awarded the National Conference of Black Political Scientists’ 1998 Outstanding Book Award. The Jesse Jackson Phenomenon and Race, Politics and Culture were each nominated for the APSA’s Ralph J. Bunche Award. His essays and articles have appeared in The Nation, The New York Times, Radical America, and numerous scholarly journals.

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