Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Black College Students and Alcohol, Part II

December 8th, 2008 by Ajuan Mance

This ad for St. Ides malt liquor (featuring rapper Ice Cube) reflects the popular stereotype of Black youth as frequent abusers of alcohol and other intoxicants. The reality is, however, quite a different story.


If the legal drinking age is eventually lowered, the impact on Black college students is likely to be negligible. Black student use of alcohol and drugs is lower than that of most other major ethnic groups.

It seems that African American students don’t need a temperance movement or federal prohibition legislation to exercise moderation or (in many cases) abstinence in alcohol consumption and drug use. Consider the following observations by researchers and journalists who have looked at the question of Black college students and alcohol consumption:

Ongoing studies confirm that students at HBCUs and African American students in general drink far less and suffer fewer consequences than do students at predominantly white institutions. This disparity in alcohol consumption appears to be strongly related to factors such as HBCUs’ emphasis on character development in their institutional goals and their enrollment of many students with strong religious values. As a result, the atmosphere at HBCUs mitigates against the “culture of drinking” found on so many other college and university campuses.

U.S. Department of Higher Education’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention


Alcohol rates are very high among college students, with use higher among males than females. White students are highest in heavy drinking, black students are lowest and Hispanics are intermediate.

–O’Malley, Patrick M. and Johnston, Lloyd D. “Epidemiology of Alcohol and Other Drug Use among American College Students.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol, suppl 14 p23-39 Mar 2002


White students are more likely to use drugs and alcohol than minority students, and students at historically black colleges have much lower rates of substance abuse than other students, the study found.

— Donna Leinwand, “College Drug Use, Binge Drinking Rise,” USA Today, 3/15/2007


People ask why black students in college stay amongst themselves. One reason is that we do not feel safe in environments where white students binge drink, because drinking leads to an open door for racial bigotry.

— Justin Davis, head of the Black Student Union at Cornell University, interviewed in 2007, after a white Cornell student Nathan Poffenbarger was sentenced to state prison for the hate-motivated stabbing of an African American student who was visiting from Union College. Poffenbarger was heavily intoxicated when he carried out the attack. Davis was quoted in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE).

Posted by Ajuan Mance


Posted in African Americans, Alcohol, Black Colleges, Black Students, Current Events, HBCUs, Higher Education, race

One Response

  1. Big Man

    Thank you for this helpful info.