A Long Way to Go: Conversations about Race by African American Faculty and Graduate Students

By Darrell Cleveland | Go to book overview

Fred A. Bonner II

Marcheta Evans


1

CAN YOU HEAR ME?: VOICES AND
EXPERIENCES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN
STUDENTS IN HIGHER EDUCATION

African Americans have interfaced with academe since the early part of the 19th century. The annals of higher education history show that Edward Jones and John Russworm were the first two African Americans to earn bachelor's degrees from White institutions—Amherst and Bowdoin (Lucas, 1994, p. 158). Although the infusion of African Americans into predominantly White institutions (PWIs) constituted a mere trickle during the formative years of higher education in this nation, it was the development of another separate and supposedly equal institutional type that led to a steady stream in advancing the education status for this population, namely, the historically Black college and university (HBCU). According to Patton and Bonner (2001), “The HBCU has not only served as the exclusive avenue of access to higher education for African Americans with its promotion of a participatory ethos and an open door admissions policy, but it has also provided immeasurable benefits by way of student leadership potential and social development” (p. 18).

Although the establishment of the HBCU has significantly enhanced access to and opportunities for higher education for African Americans, current trends reveal that most African Americans have opted to enroll in PWIs. However, many African American students view the decision to attend a PWI as potentially detrimental to their academic and social identities, mainly because historically the admission of Blacks to predominantly White institutions has been at best tepid and at worst cold (Feagin, Vera, & Imani, 1996). Hence, for African American student populations, finding some sense of agency within these academic enclaves presents a challenge that is at best formidable and at worst insurmountable.

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