Crystal A. deGregory. “Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the Limits of Education’s Transformative Power in the Age of Black Lives Matter.” For the Sake of Peace: Africana Perspectives on Racism, Justice, and Peace in America.
Charles Chavis, ed. Forthcoming.
Crystal A. deGregory and Lewis V. Baldwin. “Sexism in the World House: Women and the Global Vision of Martin Luther King Jr.” Reclaiming the Great World House: The Global Vision of Martin Luther King, Jr. Vicki L. Crawford and Lewis V. Baldwin, eds. Forthcoming.
The History of HBCUs Matter to Beyoncé’s Homecoming for TIME
“How the Black Colleges Beyoncé Honors in Homecoming Have Played a Vital Role in American History.” TIME. April 19, 2019.
The well-received release on Wednesday of Beyoncé’s documentary Homecoming has sparked interest in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to which she pays tribute throughout the film. “I always dreamed of going to an HBCU,” she says, and the Coachella performance at the center of Homecoming was a musical and visual homage to those institutions. Even the film’s title references the most beloved tradition of HBCUs.
This moment — a worldwide celebration of HBCU culture — has been more than one and three-quarter centuries in the making. But the feeling of unity expressed by Beyoncé’s loving tribute goes even deeper than viewers may know: throughout that history, HBCUs have contributed to every sphere of American life…
Even in an era when philanthropic support for HBCUs pales in comparison to the mega-gifts to their historically white counterparts, and when white supremacist attacks are on the rise, HBCUs offer hope of black social, economic and political resurgence. They retain their founding mission of educating the best and the brightest just as proudly as they do underprivileged long-shots. They also retain their post-Reconstruction role as ports in the storm of prejudice — which should perhaps come as no surprise. After all, the black students and schoolmasters who ensured the persistence of HBCUs, through the toiling of their hands and the application of their minds, and despite the enshrinement of racial inequality, shepherded a sense of black potential in American life. More than a century later, as Homecoming clearly demonstrates, that sense of possibility endures.
New Peer-Reviewed Research on Historically Black Community Colleges
Kayla C. Elliott, Jarrett Warshaw and Crystal A. deGregory. “Historically Black Community Colleges: A Descriptive Profile and Call for Context-Based Future Research.” Community College Journal of Research and Practice. April 2019.
ABSTRACT: Much of the research and discussion of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) focuses on four-year institutions, impeding the significance of their two-year counterparts. Using extant literature and data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), this paper elucidates Historically Black Community Colleges (HBCCs). By providing nuanced perspectives on this group of community colleges, we situate these institutions in their unique context. The paper provides a historical background of HBCCs, a review of relevant literature, and a descriptive profile of HBCCs’ organizational characteristics. Finally, we discuss topical and theoretical recommendations for future research. This paper is a call for further research situated in the distinctive context of HBCCs, and carries both scholarly and practical significance for HBCCs, as well as other HBCUs, Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), and community colleges.
Film Review of Tell Them We Are Rising
Stanley Nelson, director. Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities. American Historical Review. February 2019.
It is difficult to believe Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities is the first ever major documentary effort to chronicle the history and persistence of the more than one hundred institutions of higher education that—by virtue of their similar founding missions to educate African Americans—share federal designations as historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).Long awaited, it is tempting for the film to be embraced without critique, especially by the scores of HBCU alumni who feel its debut offers their alma maters credit long overdue. It seemed HBCU culture was finally to receive the attention its advocates desperately wanted—but in Tell Them We Are Rising, the story of HBCUs has gotten less attention than it needed, and woefully less nuance than it deserves.”
HBCUs Strike Balance Between Accessibility and Exclusivity
“Plenty of Good Room.” HBCU Times. November 2018.
The first day of new student orientation for incoming students at the nation’s less than handful of historically black medical schools is always a momentous one. Even without yet having earned the signature white coats associated with professionals in their fields the enthusiasm from and for them seems palpable.
This fall was no different. The smiling faces of incoming students at Meharry Medical College’s School of Medicine and School of Dentistry, for example, shine bright with the promise of possibility in a photo the college posted on social media.
The picture is a stark contrast to the 1959 letter from Emory University’s medical school to Marion Gerald Hood of Griffin, Georgia: “I am sorry I must write you that we are not authorized to consider for admission a member of the Negro race.”
Segregation—either de facto or de jure—we know, was long the rule, rather than the exception in the American experience. Yet, seeing segregation in higher education spelled out so explicitly in black and white is painfully jarring. This level of unabashed institutional racism is a reminder of the importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)—which, like traditionally-white institutions (TWIs) including Emory—are often pegged as segregationist.
Thoughts on the 2018 Election
Authentic and unapologetic, Stacey Abrams is well positioned to make history yet again. The Atlanta Voice. June 08, 2018.
In a line that stretches back to the likes of Barbara Jordan, Shirley Chisholm and Carol Moseley Braun, this moment, Stacey Abrams’s moment, is inextricably linked to the past, and to its black women political leaders who made her bid possible. And win or lose, come November 6, history books will now remember the former Georgia House Minority leader as history-making as well.
For inasmuch as we are tempted to exceptionalize moments and achievements, as well as the people associated with them, we more fairly judge and better serve each other when we see ourselves, as standing in a much longer line of history.
To be sure, black women have long served as powerful—though often overlooked—agents of change in American politics.
And as a black woman, reared in the Deep South, educated at a historically black college—who flatly acknowledges that she is still paying back college loans—an authentic and unapologetic Abrams is well-positioned to make history yet again.
#eulogizingaretha: She was ours. The Feminist Wire. September 10, 2018.
Even as a girl, she sang like an angel; but she grew in measure to use her voice to fight every devil in hell on this side of heaven.
We know these devils well, racism, sexism, and poverty—and she fought them frequently and well, whether adorned in a floor-length gown wrapped in the finest mink fur or that iconic Soul Train orange netted shirt with only a corresponding brassiere for cover.
That’s right, Aretha did not suffer the chains of fools or any other foolishness when it came to the size or display of her body—a body that despite being the home to the greatest voice of the twentieth century had endured injuries that others find unthinkable and unspeakable—and many victims, through no fault of their own, find unbearable.
HBCU Advocacy in Difficult Times
Kayla C. Elliott, Brittany-Rae Gregory and Crystal A. deGregory. “Yet with A Steady Beat”: Advocating Historically Black Colleges and Universities as Black Women in the Age of Trump’s America.” Women, Gender, and Families of Color. Vol. 6, No. 1, Trump’s America? Disquiet Campus? Marginalized College Students, Faculty, and Staff Reflect on Learning, Working, Living, and Engaging (Spring 2018), pp. 12-17. University of Illinois Press.
Collectively, we write this essay from our positions as a current HBCU student, an HBCU alumna and graduate researcher, and an HBCU alumna, professor, and administrator. As Black women committed to racial equity and the intersectional study of higher education, we evoke the words of United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who in the consequential 1992 United States v. Fordice ruling, began his concurring opinion by evoking the words of Fisk University alumnus and noted sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois: “We must rally to the defense of our schools. We must repudiate this unbearable assumption of the right to kill institutions unless they conform to one narrow standard.”
Work on Black Colleges in the Caribbean Showcases Passions
T. Elon Dancy II, Brian K. Hotchkins, Crystal A. deGregory and Stevie Johnson. “An HBCU in the Anglophone Caribbean: Sociohistorical Perspectives on the University of the Virgin Islands.” Black Colleges in the Diaspora: Global Perspectives on Identity and Culture. M. Christopher Brown II and T. Elon Dancy II, editors. December 2017.
This chapter discusses the socio-histories that shape the current existential realities for HBCU education in the Caribbean, particularly the University of the Virgin Islands. The distinction, Anglophone Caribbean (also commonly referred to as the British West Indies), is a way of naming the intentional displacement and conquering of the indigenous people of the islands. Following a theorization of colonization, the chapter discusses the politics of higher education in the Anglophone Caribbean that influence the existence of the only HBCU outside the continental U.S., The University of the Virgin Islands. This context is essential to understanding the university’s founding and modern existence.
Forgiveness: The Unexpected Gift of Fatherlessness
Gumbo for the Soul: Liberating Memoirs and Stories to Inspire Females of Color. Donna Ford et al, editors. November 2016.
This book — a collection of memoirs written by Women of Color is shared to inspire and motivate readers. The authors of these precious, soulful stories are from across the globe and represent various backgrounds and professions. What these women have in common, though, is their drive to tell their story. Stories of pain, discovery, strength, and stories of beginnings. Many of the experiences, as difficult as they may have been, made the women who they are today. Telling these stories to a new generation will empower and encourage them in their experiences no matter how troubling or challenging.
The book is available for purchase from Information Age Publishing online:
Rolls Out the Nation’s First Peer-Reviewed HBCU Journal as Editor-in-Chief
An interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal, HBCUR+C publishes a wide-range of scholarly articles relating to the nation’s historically black colleges and universities. Released in Spring 2016, the inaugural issue features an introduction to the founding editorial board, HBCU-related art, and articles on HBCU board leadership, history, partnerships, and sports.
The journal is available for purchase online:
Amid challenges, Fisk endures after 150 years: Tennessean Editorial sets tone for Sesquicentennial
The tower of Fisk University’s Jubilee Hall — the first permanent structure for the education of blacks in the South — has stood prominently among the Nashville skyline for more than a century. The tower, like the building to which it belongs, stands as a declaration of Fisk University’s distinction as one of the nation’s finest universities and as the city’s oldest institution of higher education.
Epilogue for The Athletic Experience at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Past, Present and Persistence
In The Athletic Experience at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Past, Present, and Persistence, leading scholars from across the nation present a holistic examination of the integral role sports have played at HBCUs. Chapters in this volume cover a range of topics, from HBCU Football Classics to economics. It begins with a historical overview of HBCUs and the early sporting life before delving into the experiences of today’s male and female student-athletes—including the unique perspectives of athletes who transferred from historically White colleges and universities to HBCUs. Other chapters examine economic issues at HBCUs, such as the financial viability of their athletic departments in the context of the larger NCAA economic framework, and recommendations for the future of HBCU athletics to restore both academic and athletic excellence at these institutions. An important addition to the existing literature on race in contemporary society, this volume provides a narrative of the Black experience from the historical origins of educating Blacks, their early athletic experiences, and the current state of athletics at HBCUs. The Athletic Experience at Historically Black Colleges and Universities is a significant contribution to the debate on college athletics and higher education, in general, and athletics at HBCUs, specifically. It is a must-read for sport studies scholars and students, sport management practitioners, and sport enthusiasts of the inter-workings of athletics and the HBCU experience.
“Nashville’s Clandestine Black Schools”: deGregory Published in the New York Times
On Monday, March 4, 1833, the nation’s seventh president and Tennessee’s most famous son, Andrew Jackson, was sworn in for his second term. On that same day another Tennessean, Alphonso M. Sumner, clandestinely opened a school for black children in Nashville. It was a bold move: In the wake of Nat Turner’s uprising two years earlier, Southern whites had begun a particularly violent reign of terror against black efforts at organizing institutions like schools and churches – were critical to the black struggle for freedom, justice and civil rights. But Sumner, a free black barber, bet that the paternalistic sympathies of white Nashvillians would allow them to turn a blind-eye to a school for free black children, owned and operated by him.
Largely credited to Northern missionary ethos, most histories of black education in the South begin with the establishment of freedmen’s schools in the wake of the Civil War. But that story ignores the many efforts by Southern blacks, going back well before the war, to create their own educational institutions and traditions. And nowhere was that effort better evident than in Nashville.
Touting the HBCU Experience
Crystal A. deGregory. “The Empty Seat Was Mine.” HBCU Experience: The Book.
Do the words “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste” mean anything special to you? They do to me.
I was a 16 year-old high school senior in the spring of 1999. My high school on the island of Grand Bahama, in The Bahamas, had been visited by a dynamic recruiter, Fisk University Director of Admissions Anthony Jones. A Fisk alumnus, AJ believed passionately in Fisk; and he made me believe in Fisk too.
Book Description: Co-edited by Black college alumni Dr. Tia Tyree and Christopher D. Cathcart, HBCU Experience – The Book celebrates the rich legacy and experiences of those who attended HBCUs. Further, with the debate still raging over the relevance and need for HBCUs in the new millennium, this collection of more than 60 essays showcases the unique journey of HBCU graduates, highlights the important need for these institutions and accentuates the overall benefits of having an HBCU education. The groundbreaking anthology chronicles undergraduate realities such as dating and relationships, dorm living, road trips, pledging fraternities and sororities, student activism and leadership, athletics and much, much more.
The book is available for purchase from the editors online:
“The Relationships of Revolution”: deGregory Breaks New Ground in MLK Scholarship
deGregory’s “The Relationships of Revolution: Martin Luther King, Jr., the Civil Rights Movement and Political Change in the Bahamas” was published as a part of the In an Inescapable Network of Mutuality: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Globalization of an Ethical Ideal was published in August 2013. The chapter “breaks new ground in the scholarship on Martin Luther King, Jr., for no scholar has written in such compelling terms about King’s meaning for people in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. As one who has thoroughly researched both the path toward nationhood in the Bahamas and the struggle for civil rights in America, deGregory is eminently qualified to write with authority about these issues. Needless to say, her chapter adds yet another piece to the puzzle that was and is the global King.”
The scholarship on Martin Luther King Jr. has too often cast him in the image of the Southern black preacher and the American Gandhi, while ignoring or trivializing his global connections and significance. This groundbreaking work, written by scholars, religious leaders, and activists of different backgrounds, addresses this glaring pattern of neglect in King studies. King is treated here as both a global figure and a forerunner of much of what is currently associated with contemporary globalization theory and praxis. The contributors to this volume agree that King must be understood not only as a thinker, visionary, and social change agent in his own historical context, but also in terms of his meaning for the different generations who still appeal to him as an authority, inspiration, and model of exemplary service to humanity. The task of engaging King both in context and beyond context is fulfilled in remarkable ways in this volume, without doing essential violence to this phenomenal figure.
The book is available for purchase from Wipf and Stock Publishers online:
Slavery at the Epicenter of the Civil War
Crystal A. deGregory. Emancipation and the Fight For Freedom.
Edited by Crystal A. deGregory, Ph.D., Emancipation and the Fight For Freedom explores the African American experience amid and following the turmoil of the Civil War. Paying special interest to the efforts of blacks to secure educational opportunities, it explores the continued centrality of the concept of black self-determination in the Tennessee Historical Quarterly’s black historiography.
As these articles all too often demonstrate, the efforts of black Tennesseans to secure and enjoy American freedoms often fell short of their ideals. Even so, the experiences of black Tennesseans in slavery and freedom serve as important and necessary threads in the rich fabric of Tennessee’s Civil War history. The issue of slavery was the epicenter of the Civil War, making it impossible to discuss the war without including the sufferings, as well as strivings of African Americans during the Civil War era.
The book is available for purchase from The Tennessee Historical Quarterly online:
Celebrating the TSU Centennial
“A Royal Band, The Chosen Few: The Birth of Tennessee State University.”
By the turn of the twentieth century, and almost fifty years after the founding of Nashville’s Fisk University in 1866, Tennessee had yet to build a single public center for black higher education. As the first of its kind, the 1912 creation of Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State Normal School was obviously due in no small measure to the passage of the Morrill Acts. Even so, a historiography which ignores the multifarious and several decades-long efforts of countless black Tennesseans to secure the financial, political and community support critical to the school’s birth and growth, stops short of telling the truly remarkable story of the school’s founding. By tracing the organizing efforts of black Nashville from the nineteenth century demands Colored Men’s Conventions of the 1870s to the ideological momentum offered by city’s Negro Business League and Booker T. Washington’s Tennessee Tour of 1909, and finally to fundraising successes of the Agricultural and Industrial State Normal Association, this paper offers a more representative history the long process by which the school was founded. Utilizing a host of primary resources, it explores how the school’s early leadership including most notably J.C. Napier, Henry A. Boyd and William Jasper Hale, shaped the institution’s mission and formative vision for the twentieth century. In doing so, it not only reveals the formidable business and political acumen of the school’s earliest leaders, it affirms the collective institutional power of the black community and reveals how the school effected transformative changes in the lives of its constituents.