In compiling Black Higher Education in the United States, Fredrick Chambers has performed a welcome service. Hopefully it also is one that will be put to immediate use by historians, educators, historians of American education, sociologists, and those outside the formal "groves of academe" who concern themselves with matters of "public policy" of significant societal implications. Chambers's work also calls attention to a rather curious paradox abour contemporary American scholarship and the treatment (or virtual absence of analytical treatment) of his subject and provides an indispensable tool for the first step toward its resolution.
The paradox is simply this. Almost inevitably, the selection of subject matter or topic for study, exploration, and analysis by the academic and nonacademic practitioners alluded to above is influenced by the concerns of contemporary society; yet there is a virtual void in scholarly analytical works that dispassionately identify and assess the implications, nature, and roles of the "historically Black" colleges and universities in both the past and the present. Instead, there appear to proliferate dispute about basic "fact"; sharp disagreement in conclusions or assumptions about significance, effectiveness, and purpose; a boggling variance in taxonomical classification, definition, selection, presention, and interpretation of statistical and historical data related to these institutions; a virtual absence of anything approaching a consensus about the respective or collective pasts and presents -- much less futures -- of these institutions and the significance and effectiveness of their roles as social, socializing, and formally educational agencies of their and the American societies.
Among the issues that the current American generation has seen emerge as issues of vital societal concern and wide, often impassioned, discussion as matters of public policy, two seem especially pertinent. One is the question of the relationship of Black Americans to and within an at last officially integrated American society; the other is that of the validity and implications of America's educational institutions -- most especially including those of higher education -- as socializing and potentially politicizing agencies of the society. That the obvious connective between these two issues of public policy has not already engendered an exhaustive series of scholarly monographs and sophisticated analyses of the pasts and presents of the conjunction of these respective phenomena is per-