Historically Black Colleges a Bad Example of 'School Choice'

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), March 18, 2017 | Go to article overview

Historically Black Colleges a Bad Example of 'School Choice'


Byline: Carrie Leonetti For The Register-Guard

On Feb. 28, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ironically touted historically black colleges and universities as a successful example of her beloved pet cause of "school choice."

Of course, the existence of historically black institutions in America, in many cases, is the result of the opposite of school choice. Instead, these institutions are a legacy of the "separate but equal" regime of segregated public schools that existed before the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, which in reality was a regime of separate but unequal and inadequate funding for black education.

In 1865, Congress created the federal Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands to assist former enslaved people in the South, including with the creation and supervision of schools.

The Freedman's Bureau, in conjunction with black community organizations, sponsored the creation of 24 private black colleges and training schools, primarily in the South, in response to the systematic state-sanctioned regime of racial segregation, which prevented black Americans from being integrated into existing white schools.

In 1890, Congress passed the Morrill Act, allowing Southern states to appropriate existing black colleges and to create new land-grant public universities for African-Americans. Following the Supreme Court's infamous decision in Plessy vs. Ferguson, "separate but equal" became the organizing principle of public education throughout much of the United States.

Even after Brown formally ended segregated education in 1954, many black college students chose to attend historically black institutions in order to escape prejudice and institutionalized racial discrimination in historically white colleges. …

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