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The Importance of HBCUs During the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement

The American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s will Forever be a landmark manifestation of black unity and unrest in American history. The events of said movement are etched into the memories of our parents and grandparents and are consistently used as source material for heart wrenching blockbusters and eye opening novels.

One thing you may realize, if you listen to enough recollections from your grandmother or binge watch “Selma” enough times, is that the movement was primarily orchestrated and lead by young people. The face of the movement, Dr. Martin Luther King was just 26 when he was elected to the Montgomery NAACP executive committee as well as the position of president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, responsible for the Montgomery bus boycotts. This was only 7 years after his early graduation from Morehouse college, a historically black college in his hometown of Atlanta. As a matter of fact, a substantial number of civil rights leaders and contributors were not only young people, but young hbcu alumni if not students. The late Congressman John Lewis was a graduate of Fisk university, and the late activist Medgar Evers was a graduate of the then alcorn college. Stokely Carmichael was still a student at Howard university when he became sncc chairman in 1966.

HBCUs have always been and continue to be a driving force in every social movement. As recently as 2016 hbcu leaders from all over the country composed a letter standing with the black lives matter movement and held a national hbcu symposium on gun violence. HBCUs students can be found among the names of organizers for many of the recent protests concerning police brutality and black citizens rights. A shining example of this would be Calvert White,

Taylor Turnage, maisie brown, and Timothy Young. Students and graduates of HBCUs such as Alcorn state, Tougaloo college, NCat and JSU, who organized a city wide protest in Jackson

Mississippi with almost 5,000 participants including the Jackson mayor, Chokwe Lumumba.

Their demands also contributed to the recent removal of the confederate symbol from the Mississippi state flag, according to Lots of HBCUs have also taken to showing their solidarity with the movement in a more optical approach, with HBCUs such as miles college and FAMU having black lives matter street murals at or adjacent to their campuses.

The spirit of HBCUs is that of protest. They were created in response to the dehumanization of African Americans and the de jure prohibition of black education. Simply to be black and continue this legacy contradicts the skewed ideas of black people this country was built on and still continues to propagate.

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