Robert M. Hendrickson
College of Education, The Pennsylvania State University
A review of the federal policy and the litigation on the breakup of dual systems of higher education under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act illuminates a very complex issue. It becomes abundantly clear that what took 100 years to establish cannot be dismantled through a five-year policy mandate. Furthermore, the definitions of equal opportunity, equity and equality have not been clarified, nor have policy makers described the end result--how the state's higher education system would appear when the goal of Title VI compliance is achieved. Rather, as this study so aptly points out, the focus of the courts and policy has been on enrollment and employment quotas and the elimination of the historically black institutions. Such an approach is consistent with the history of the treatment of African Americans in the southern and border states.
During the reconstruction period, there was a specific effort by the white population to deny Blacks the right to education and to ensure that any education provided was inferior to that offered to Whites. This history was chronicled in Knight v. Alabama (787 F.Supp. 1030 [N.D. Ala. 1991]) and demonstrated how denial of the right to vote, white control of historically black institutions, and the tradition of underfunding the existing historically black colleges ensured their inferiority. Yet as M. Christopher Brown points out, the historically black colleges, against insurmountable odds, have become the most successful vehicle for preparing African Americans to pursue successful and contributing careers in society. Why then