Closing the HBCU-9 sesquicentennial celebration

Tramon Lucas

This year marks not only the historic sesquicentennial celebration for Morgan State University, but for eight other historically black colleges and universities as they unite at Morgan to recognize their sesquicentennial celebrations.

Howard University, Alabama State University, Talladega College, John C. Smith University, St. Augustine’s University, Barber-Scotia College, Fayetteville State University and Morehouse College joined Morgan for a week long celebration as the nine universities honoring 150 years in service.

Activities included a poetry slam on Monday, a tree planting Tuesday, a choir concert Thursday, a luncheon on Friday and a State of the Union address Saturday.

The original keynote speaker for the State of the Union program changed from U.S. Rep. Alma Adams to Maryland governor candidate Ben Jealous.

Adams was called away and was no longer available to give the keynote but, being an HBCU graduate, Adams still recognizes the academic excellence of these institutions.

“As a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, twice, and a retired professor of forty years from Bennett College in North Carolina, I’m proud to recognize the nine HBCUs, including Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, celebrating 150 years of educational excellence,” said Adams. “I’ve dedicated my legislative career to advocating for HBCUs because they’ve been instrumental in building African-American communities and investing in students like me, and nearly half of my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus.”

Like Adams, Jealous also has a strong tie to HBCUs, being related to James Solomon Russell, founder of Saint Paul’s College, an HBCU in Virginia.

With this tie, Jealous knows the importance that HBCUs held in the past as well as today.

“For much of the twentieth century, HBCUs were the only place blacks could attain a college degree legally and free from intimidation. It is due to their central role in providing higher education to the black community that I’ve fought for them whenever I could over the course of my life,” said Jealous.

Jealous has worked with students to save HBCUs in Mississippi.

“In the late ’90s, I organized students in Mississippi to stop the governor from closing two of the three public HBCUs in the state, and in the last couple of decades I’ve fought to give Mississippi HBCUs equitable funding and organized a march to stop a governor from turning Mississippi Valley State University into a prison,” said Jealous.

An important discussion that Jealous focuses on is the idea that education is the right tool for kids to succeed.

“HBCUs are important and need to keep running not because black Americans cannot access other colleges and universities but because they offer the ability to to see the success and diversity of the black experience,” said Jealous.