The oddity in HBCU Bomb threats coinciding with Black History Month

After 16 historically Black colleges and universities were targeted with bomb threats at the start of Black history month, some question the timing and history of racial intimidation in the United States.

Ashlyn J. Wilson, Staff Writer

Historically Black colleges and universities were established to give Black American students an opportunity to achieve higher education. 

However, several historically Black institutions have been terrorized with bomb threats, causing campuses to shut down with classes cancelled.

Leading up to this year’s Black History Month, nearly thirty historically Black colleges and universities were targeted with bomb threats within the past five weeks. 

Morgan State University, along with at least 15 other historically Black colleges and universities, received a bomb threat on Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month.  

Some people like Aubrey A. Thompson, a history professor at Morgan, believe the threats were intentionally set on the start of Black History Month.

“It seemed to be around February, Black History Month,” said Thompson. “And it was probably targeted deliberately for that month. 

“All they did was, in fact, cause some angst in the ranks of the student population, in terms of the faculty, as well as campus workers,” he added.

Jay A. Perman, the chancellor of the University System of Maryland, issued a statement about the matter on Feb. 1.

“It’s devastating and despicable that we begin Black History Month with bomb threats at our nation’s HBCUs,” said Perman in an online address, “…as well as fellow Maryland HBCU Morgan State University.” 

Although Morgan State University is not an affiliate member of Maryland’s system of public higher education, Perman’s statement stood in support of all historically Black institutions targeted.

“We stand in solidarity with our historically Black institutions, knowing that their strength is our strength,” said Perman. “And that their power—on display like never before—will not be diminished by cowardly acts meant to menace and harm and intimidate.”

Later that week, the FBI identified six juvenile suspects who may have been involved. MSNBC reported that the FBI is investigating the threats as racially motivated.

Contrary, on Feb. 8, Spelman University, an all-women HBCU in Atlanta, shut down its campus for four hours after receiving its third bomb threat this year. Howard University and Fisk University continue to receive threats as recently as Monday morning.

These tactical threats have been seen throughout U.S. history. Evidence of racially intimidating tactics on people of color, date back to Jim Crow laws in the south. 

Lester Spence, a professor of political science and Africana studies at John Hopkins University, connects the threats to white supremacy and historical events of racial intimidation.

“In this moment, I’d connect the threats to the intimidation people in places like Detroit experienced when Trump made accusations of vote tampering,” Spence said.

During the past election, former President Donald Trump falsely claimed that Detroit was involved in vote tampering. These allegations were later debunked by former state elections administrator, Chris Thomas. 

“I’d also connect the threats loosely to the attacks made against Critical Race Theory,” said Spence. “Attacks which are conceivably connected to HBCUs because white supremacists view them as the likely place where such ideas are developed and circulated.”

Like Spence, Torrey Rogers, vice president of Morgan’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter, compared the bomb threat intimidation strategy to the city curfews implemented during the heightened protest and rallies in 2020. 

“Similar to the George Floyd events…they would implement curfews because they wanted people to stop protesting,” said Rogers. “They used the curfew to perpetuate violence towards civilians.” 

In representation of Morgan’s NAACP chapter, Rogers reminds the Morgan State community that HBCUs are still a safe haven for Black people. 

“We are here to empower, uplift and advocate for black people…If you feel that we need to take action on a local level, we will be here.” said Rogers. “One thing for HBCUs, they are supposed to provide education, but beyond that they’re a safe haven and a safe space for black people.”