Wednesday, February 21, 2018


I don't know about you but there were a lot of holes in my history textbooks growing up especially regarding injustices to different populations in our U.S. society. 
Thank goodness for documentaries.  

Overlooked exploration into 150 years of higher Black education is Independent Lens's  documentary 'Tell Them We Are Rising' as African Americans sought being more than society's status quo. 

White slave owners wanted to keep its Black work force ignorant and subordinate. Yet Slaves viewed Reading as "talking to books" where paper communicated was denied to them.  In the North contraband schools were formed because knowledge was desired. 

Numerous schools opened up after the Civil War but teacher training was necessary. The AME Church started their own colleges with freedom from racism with separate Black schools for the Negro to educate himself. In the late 1800's the federal government, AME and AMA formed some 86 colleges. 

This Black education was threatening to the old system and between 1866-72 approximately 20,000 blacks and whites are killed. But even with the shortage of teachers many schools survived. Word reached the North that "We are Rising."  

Armstrong, a former northern General formed Hampton College in Virginia where Booker T. Washington attended. Armstrong felt that an industrial education was all the Black student could muster and he mentored Washington as the first Black to head Tuskegee University. Unfortunately Washington uses Armstrong's theory to form a neo slavery, an educated Black workforce for the North. He was a master at marketing, using photography at Tuskegee to attract students and white benefactors.

WWI returning black veterans were faced with hostility and  28 cities burned with race wars called the Red Summer. A militant Black soldier had returned wanting more out of education. 

During this time William Debois viewed the limitations placed on Black education and with a daughter at Fisk learns of the draconian education run by white presidents with a moral code without associations, sports etc.. that doesn't understand the Black population. Riots ensue after a speech Debois delivers saying the black student deserves better and shouldn't have their education compromised. Students protest and stop going to class.  Their white campus President resigns.

In the 30's and 40's Black colleges are the only choices for Blacks striving for higher education so the energies were put into teaching 
more than the arts to help raise their students out of poverty training future lawyers, doctors, engineers etc... and thus began the Black middle class. 

Black colleges were insular and the truth was when students left the campus segregation and racism waited outside. It wasn't talked about, it was just the way it was. 

Segregation in education within itself was inequal.  Charles Hamilton Houston, lawyer and dean of Howard Law School along with Thurgood Marshall, a promising lawyer, chose to use the law of separate but equal to fight the inequality after seeing the inequalities in deep South black education. 

Centuries of segregation was fought in the courts in the 20th century with Brown vs Board of Education and was met with dissent by the white population. Students began peaceful demonstrations starting with the Woolworth lunch counters and extended into places where blacks and whites weren't usually seen together. 

Picket lines grew and violence ensued . Boycotts and protests made Black colleges policing targets. One such example was in Louisiana's Southern University, the largest public Black institution with black administrators, instructors but under the control of whites with 1/2 as much was spent on each student, discrepancies in class size, classes offered, input into curriculum, etc. Even if the student boycott was nonviolent, 4 students were arrested and when the administration building was taken over police showed up en masse and 2 students were unnecessarily killed...  

Today's Black students can choose a Black institution of higher education to have the opportunity to be the majority and be taught by black instructors with a curriculum that fills in the holes white education hasn't filled. Today there are some 100 black colleges some succeeding, others closing due to competition. Choices. 

May these students continue to rise for we as a society have to lot to learn...

Here is the link to view :TELL THEM WE ARE RISING

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