Student Responses to the End-of-the Year Open Letter Part 2

Background: I included an open letter to my students as a part of their final exam. You can read the initial letter here, and you can read their responses to my letter here. Upon catching a couple of students cheating/talking during my final exam, I gave the culprits zeros and required them to retake the exam. I created  a new exam with a new open letter. Below are the students’ responses to  my second letter. 


Dear Mr. Westbrooks,

Your open letter was very interesting because it’s like we are speaking to each other about education and I admired that. It was funny how you said “I’m not picking on you” and put me on the spot but I was explaining this part I’m writing to someone. That’s why I understand why you gave me an zero. I’m happy that you gave me a second chance to make up and I should of known not to discuss anything because it’s a final but a lot of people was speaking that’s why I thought it would be ok to speak too.

Mr. Westbrooks you really funny I was mad yesterday that was suppose to be my  last day. I looked on my grade I had 2 A and 1 B and 1 F the F was by you I was like why he gave me a F and I seen talking and I had to talk to you and said the test tomorrow so I wanted to do whatever it took to get Honor Roll again and I’m working on it now.

I really appreciate you giving me a second chance on this test to make up my grade. Thank you Mr. Westbrook


Dear Mr. Westbrooks

I appreciate that your letting me retake my final exam, because other teachers would’ve just gave me a “F.” And my grade would’ve been bad and I would not been able to make honor roll and my grade dropped so bad I would have had to attend summer school 2016.

I regret cheating on your test and if I can go back into time I’ll really change my act that day because it was very unacceptable because my grade was good in your class and I learned enough to do a great enough job the first try I did the test.

I am horrible at cheating because it’s not my hobby and I really didn’t study for the final until last night and everything seems more easy to me. I wish I would’ve did this from the start because I would not be in the situation I am as of right now. Thank you for letting me redo this important final, and great open letter. It was very interesting and made me look at the situation in another vein.

Student Responses to the End-of-the-Year Open Letter

Background: Last week, I posted an open letter that I wrote to my students. You can read it here. Below are some of the responses that the students wrote back to me. Each response is denoted by the student’s initials, and they are exact replications of what they wrote, so expect to see grammatical errors. 


Dear Mr. Westbrooks,

With that being said, not all students have the same mindset as others. I understand where you coming from but I don’t know about others. I agree with you, I haven’t been here for that long, I see many kids that are real smart but all they do is try to show off in front of their friends. Today is mostly based off people impressing their friends so the “act tuff” or don’t want to do their work or try to be down and skip school. I tried to help people, I really did I tell people this all the time, but it’s like people are afraid to be judged. Like say a boy don’t want to they’ll call him a “B” word and not want to be his friend, call him a nerd etc. Basically if you get kids one by one I promise  you you’ll see a better grade or education percentage because they don’t have to impress anyone. But back to what I was really talking about. I have many goals I would like to accomplish. So I’ll try my best to accomplish my goals and take the advice that you gave me.


I read your letter beginning to end and I found a lot of the things in your letter important and interesting. I’m one of the students that wants to go to college and find education very important. Th job I want to have when I grow up is a defense attorney and that takes a lot of school and hard work. I am going to try my best to achieve that goal but if that doesn’t work out, I will always have plan B and C which is a flight attendant or real estate agent. Them are some pretty good backup plans so even if I fail at becoming a defense attorney I will have backup plans. Like you said education is more bigger than grades. I agree in order to make A’s and B’s you have to know things. You can’t just make an A or B by knowing nothing. You have to put in the time and effort to achieve your goals and go to college. You also need an education to get a job you can’t expect to get a job and not know anything. A job is very important. It’s not to late to better your education and smarter your mind so that you are ready for any challenges that come your way. Work hard and play later.


Dear Mr. Westbrooks,

My main goal in life is to be “successful.” When I express the term “successful” I don’t mean have lots of money or a huge mansion, and five cars. I want to be able to look back over the years of my life and be able to say “I made it.” I want to be able to be proud of myself. As I reminisce about my early years in high school and even through college, I wish to endure the satisfaction of knowing the sleepless nights, the extra credit assignments and the waking up early constantly every morning paid off. It took me a long time to figure out that nothing in life is given to you. You must earn “everything.” A quote I came across said “When you want to succeed, as bad as you want to breathe then you will be successful.” I feel as though if I work very hard, then reaching all my goals will be no problem. I highly understand the importance of education. A high school diploma nowadays does not mean anything. You should strive to go past your potential. I feel like education is something no one can take from you. It is more powerful than anyone can realize. But in reflect of what you said, I will do my best to be the best I can be. I will take my education more seriously. Thank you so much.


Dear Westbrooks

I honestly agree with the whole letter. I feel that as a student I understand what you are trying to say. As I got through the first 2 paragraphs you seem like you’re trying to get a point across trying to reach out to us as a teacher or catch our attention on things we don’t notice. I like how you “BOLDED” your subjects about the message that your trying to send.

I feel like you tried to relate to us. It seemed like since we saw the school is easy, your goal was to make your class hard. Reading this I thought of everything you wrote and it sounds like you care for us. You don’t want to see throw our lives away. You would want to see us do well maybe on TV somewhere.

It is shameful that we would just want to pass and leave high school not knowing anything. It seems like we just want a good grade. With this being a “charter school,” public schools such as Central, Shabazz, Weequahic, they actually get more work and harder work.

I honestly would like to take this poem home because it was touching. And if you would take a few kids who have nothing going for their lives and read this to them maybe it could have them think a little bit.

Reading this I also thought I shouldn’t think about what I want to do until 12th grade year. But now I think I’m going to start early and have like backup plans because I have big dreams and I want to make them come true.



Dear Mr. Westbrook,

I thank you for writing this letter towards us students. This letter motivates me to do better for myself. You’re my favorite teacher and writing this letter towards us makes me think hard about what I want to do after high school. You really caught my attention when you said how we all think this school is easy but when you handed us the social commentary project many of us struggled with the project and some of us still have not turned it in. Most of students think it easy because it easy to cheat and get an easy but then what happen after high school. You can’t cheat your way through life. Some of us really have an eighth grade education because it is easy to cheat here. But how are you going to get a job if you have a low educations intelligence. You can’t go to college and you think you going to cheat your way through. Cheating may help you now but in the long run it’s going to do more damage than help. So I would like to end this letter off with a thank you.


Dear Westbrooks,

I have reviewed your letter and A’s and B’s do indicate my action in school. I’m focus on moving to the next grade. My english class is type easy. You put lessons together the best way you can to make your students understand the lesson very well. Some assignments sometimes I thought I would never get it but I came along and got it done.

I don’t think every assignment would be easy for me because you still have other people in different places that are very behind on different skills. Your letter gave me a total exchange mindset about my work and grades. You made me come to class more because you teach me great skills to lead me to passing your course.


Dear Mr. Westbrooks,

I agree with you 100%. A lot of students in this school are getting good grades but they are not really learning the content and keeping it in their brain so they would use it in the future. I like the way that you teach you brake everything down for us and make sure we don’t move on to something else unless we understand it and you give us a challenge so that we could actually put some thought into our work. I also agree that we don’t have to go to college to be successful. A lot of students in this school are talented so they could use their talent to start a business of be a super star. I agree with you and I think we need more teachers like you.


I found this social commentary very interesting because is not just a letter to NPCS class of 2018 but is a letter that every student could be inspire by taking your words seriously; It will help student to have different mentality of education. Which you use to remind us that not a lot of people have the opportunity of attend high school, college or university. This message really inspired me and give me a reason of taking advantage of education because many people fought for education, which were their civil right but they were denied of their civilization of education. Now that I have the opportunity to something that many people dream of I will grab education is extored.

The second important that I personally learn in this message is that letter grade doesn’t really mean anything. Education is more than just a letter grade. A letter grade just describe your performance in academic. Education has a whole different meaning. Like you said in your letter “Education is any type of training or learning.”

“Money without consciousness, awareness, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding leads to destruction.” I learn a lot in this message. I also understand that money is not everything but money with education is everything.

I appreciate your time and concern about us, this letter will always hold a special place in my heart. As long you let me have a copy.


Dear Mr. Westbrooks,

As a student of yours for a year and knowing you for 2 years I’ve honestly have learned a lot. Mr. Westbrooks your honestly my favorite teacher & I will always remember every chance you have given me to pass your class all the jokes and honesty you give on to us to make our day shine better I truly appreciate you. Your one of the teachers that really always have our best interest even though sometimes you do tell my mother I skipped your class but anyway you will always be my favorite teacher.


Dear Mr. Westbrooks,

I thank you for this letter because it helps understand a lot of were you coming from I’ve learned from you. I’ve learn from my mistakes. I know I’m a smart kid and not everything in life is easy. I’m planning a lot of things to do in the future like going to the military or to college, maybe both.

I know my first year was a mess but I’ve changed a lot and it’s what teacher is this school keep telling me. I’ve been progressing my work  and my behavior. Nowadays the street is not safe to be walking around with all these gang and shooting. This world needs to get better. Yes college is not for everybody but if you have good skills and know that you can be something in life then going to school is and working hard to achieve your dreams is the way to go.


Dear Mr. Westbrooks,

I greatly appreciate you for taking the time out to express how you feel about the students and our needs in NPCS. I agree with what you said 100%. Some of the kids around my age don’t take education to serious. Before you wrote this short letter I was one of the kids that said “This school is easy” but not easy because of the grades , I said it because we could get all the help we need, we can use the computers whenever we want but some of us tend to take advantage instead of taking the opportunity and bettering ourselves. When I took summer school last year that was a wake up call for me, because I knew I could have passed just like everybody else but I took advantage and waited until the last minute when it was already too late. I failed myself. However I am proud of myself now on who I am becoming. I’ve improved so much over the past year because I took my education more serious than my teachers.


Your letter was upwelling. I like that you keep the class interesting because most students like learning new things and some gets bored if it’s not hands on. There are many reasons why a lot of students from last year stayed here it’s because teachers like you. You example what you hand us I get it when you do that and the note on the computer I like how you go over it in class.

This school assignments are easy but your work is difficult all of your work is writing assignments there is not a lot of quizzes and if it was it would be on a paper and must be handed in after class. Other classes there are a lot of questions that is very easy and out work is on the computer so if we don’t know a question we can get answer from another student.

I want to leave this school because I feel as though this school would not teach me what college seem as when I go to college I want to be on task and know what they are doing. Instead of being confused about my worse subject which is math. Everything about math confuse me but I agreed what everything you have said you know what happens in this building I just want a bright future.


Dear Mr. Westbrooks,

It’s crazy how I’ve met you & you were a flex coach tending to disrespectful children’s need to becoming an English teacher, teaching said disrespectful kids. I’ve read your open letter & I’m thinking about what you wrote & I’m trying to do better & I’m trying to start now in high school with experiences & trying no to wait after high school but not only am I to young, my parents aren’t letting me. They play a huge role in my life & doing with my social life & aren’t allowing me to go & get the experiences I need. I don’t blame them either, with the craziness going on right outside of the place we have learned to call school.

I’m going to college. Even if you say it isn’t for everyone I’m going. It’s for me I already have it all mapped out. I just got to do better in school. I could’ve had honor roll all marking period but I’ve slacked in my classes – I’m still slacking but all that’s changing once I move into the white neighborhoods when I move down the street from a nice white couple who goes by the name Sally & John & their nice daughter Barbara. I might take some influence on them. Once I’m out of the urban neighborhood. Once I’m out of the ghetto.


Dear Mr. Westbrooks,

I understand that education is very important for my life. This year is a great because I met amazing teachers who I have learned from. I very grateful that I could have you Mr. Westbrooks as my English teacher because you taught me so much that will benefit me in the future to the Air Force and become a Pararescue (PJ). I will continue to learn about what life is about and hope see what life has to offer.

I hope to transfer to another school, but I will never forget Mr. Westbrooks class if I leave of course. I will cherish the cool moment we had in your class and everything you have taught.


Dear Mr. Westbrooks,

I read your letter and I have to say it got me thinking about what you said. When you said that students said this class or school is easy. To me it’s really not you can’t really focus on any work for the class to be easy. It’s hard to keep good grades but I’m trying and I guess that’s all that matters. You were right about the only staying focus on grades I know because I was doing that myself. I couldn’t really remember anything a teacher was saying but I calmed down on the grades and focused on learning the work.

Mr. Westbrooks I’m concern about college I really don’t know if I want to go but then again I want to because my mother never got a chance to go and I want to be better than her and not follow after her footsteps. Best believe I don’t play about my education. I lobe to learn new things. I love learning about where I came from or who I am.

I know I’m taking to long to find out what college I really want to go to, but I have been looking and I hope to find the right college. Mr. Westbrooks thank you for showing how much you care about my education. I really hope you read my whole letter and understand where I’m coming from.


Dear Mr. Westbrooks,

I agree with your letter and hope that it gets through to more students. I always loved school, I liked being challenge and my teachers always seeing that in me made me the highlight of their day. I always had good grades, of course I saw them as important because that was the proof of how hard I tried this however is my first year getting straight A’s. I’m guessing that being challenged through elementary and middle school paid off.

Also I’m not going to be I did wonder why we needed certain classes. I want to be a singer, songwriter, poet and hopefully author and director so certain things I had to learn of course I accepted it but wondered why. You answered my question as you said “Even if you don’t think you need to learn everything we’re teaching you in school, the process of learning is a habit, and it trains your brain to solve problems more relevant to you.”

I also take into account that we don’t go to college and still succeed I’ve learned about how if you go to college not knowing what you want to do then it’s a waste. That and how you said a lot of students or a majority of kids and teenagers in school think what they want to do in life will be more important to think about after high school although I’ve been ambitious about what I want to do since 5th grade others may not have to start as early but certainly shouldn’t wait till after high school.

My final thoughts to you in this letter is that you make excellent points. What you’re trying to teach high schoolers I knew all but one and I thank you for getting those points across.


I truly understand where your coming from in your letter. You just want us to get the point across that we don’t always have to find the easy way out. It’s more to it than just trying to maintain your grades & cheat on assignments or test. It’s about really learning academically and remembering what your learning, and I’m truly aware of that. So I’m going to really think of that and take action because college doesn’t mean a successful life either.


Dear Mr. Westbrooks,

I agree with mostly everything you said. It’s true what you said about school and how finishing you work is more important than actually learning something. One of the things I didn’t agree on at least in my opinion is “that we don’t have to go to college.” Growing up in Newark isn’t easy. You always hear how Newark is the most dangerous city in New Jersey or the most dumb. Growing up I always had teachers tell me how everyone is expecting me to fail in life because “I’m from Newark” or how I’m not smart enough to go to college because “I’m from Newark.” It’s sad because most of those things apply for 80% of this school maybe even 90% but not me. I’m going to college. I know you think its not a big necessity to go but for me it a huge necessity. I WANT to go to college not just to prove a point but to get somewhere in life. I don’t want to stay here in Newark not because I don’t like it because it’s a beautiful city but because I don’t want to be mistaken for people that make Newark “Newark.” I don’t want want people’s face expression to slightly change in a disgusted way when I tell them where I’m from. Any ways in conclusion even if I disagree with one of your messages (I guess that’s what I’ll call it) I agree and enjoyed your social commentary.


Dear Mr. Westbrooks,

I’ve read your letter and I was focusing on it, in a good train of thought. This letter says a lot that you’ve really never said to me or that I’ve really heard. Education to me is really more important than grades. You can have the education and get a “F” on an assignment and still be the brightest, it’s the learning that counts. Grades are not an indication of your learning ability.

School and your class has taught me a lot and I have 2 more years to succeed. I believe you need a education, because honestly where would anyone be without education? Where would you be Mr. Westbrooks? Education is the key to success and that’s for everyone. But after the 4 years of high school I believe everyone should go to college to better there lives when I think is a great idea.

Reading your letter has brightened my look on learning and college. I think you took the time to write this letter to us truthfully. I took heed to what you have said in your letter. Thank you for this!


I do believe that education and the level of education isn’t where it’s supposed to be. I do notice that people really only care about passing and not really learning what is given. It just seems in life stuff are more important than school. We as kids on social media see a lot of people dropping out or high school or not going to college becoming rich and successful. I always felt like teachers made us feel like the only way of being successful was going through school and for me I never thought that was the case because growing there was a lot of things I looked at and was like you don’t need school for this and those things I was looking at the people doing them were successful. I just feel the school is one way of being successful but there is plenty more ways you just have to have hard work and dedication in what your doing. Don’t get me wrong school is good for kid and especially kids in our city and it’s always nice to learn something new but like you said the educational route may not be for everyone.

Salim Adofo: Another Side of King

I received this message in an email earlier this week, and I thought it as a vital message to share considering that it presented a side of King that our schools, government and media (the 4th branch of the government) doesn’t teach us or tell us about. Check it out.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., lead organizer of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is often quoted, referenced and honored, but was he ever understood? Many people remember Dr. King for his position on non-violence and his “I Have a Dream” speech. However, contradictions in White America’s treatment of African Americans, which were exposed by the Black Power Movement, fashioned another side of King, a side that accelerated Dr. Kings’ assassination.

In Dr. Kings’ book, “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community,” he wrote,

Black Power, in its broad and positive meaning, is a call to Black people to amass the political and economic strength to achieve their legitimate goals. No one can deny that the Negro is in dire need of this kind of legitimate power.

Dr. King also went on to write,

Black Power is also a call for the pooling of Black financial resources to achieve economic security. Through the pooling of such resources and the development of habits of thrift and techniques of wise investments, the Negro will be doing his share to grapple with his problem of economic deprivation. If Black Power means the development of this kind of strength within the Negro community, then it is a quest for basic, necessary, legitimate power.

It is important to note that these ideas that Dr. King had on Black politics and economics are the same positions that Malcolm X communicated in his definition of the political and economic aspects of Black Nationalism. The reason this is important, is because the FBI felt it would be necessary to eliminate Dr. King if he were to use Black Nationalist tactics. This can be seen through the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) of the FBI.

COINTELPRO was a program designed to neutralize, disrupt and dismantle Black organizations. On March 4, 1968, the FBI released a classified document that stated:

Prevent the RISE OF A ‘MESSIAH’ who could unify, and electrify, the militant Black Nationalist movement. Malcolm X might have been such a ‘messiah;’ he is the martyr of the movement today. Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, and [Nation of Islam leader] Elijah Muhammad all aspire to this position. Elijah Muhammad is less of a threat because of his age. King could be a real contender for this position should he abandon his supposed ‘obedience’ to ‘white, liberal doctrines’ (nonviolence) and embrace Black Nationalism.

On April 3, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave the speech that is now known as “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top.” In his speech he stated:

And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from [big corporations]. And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy, what is the other bread? Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart’s bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain. We are choosing these companies because they haven’t been fair in their hiring policies; and we are choosing them because they can begin the process of saying they are going to support the needs and the rights of these men who are on strike. And then they can move on downtown and tell Mayor Loeb to do what is right. But not only that, we’ve got to strengthen Black institutions.

Dr. King also stated,

I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a ‘bank-in’ movement in Memphis. So go by the savings and loan association. I’m not asking you something we don’t do ourselves at SCLC. Judge Hooks and others will tell you that we have an account here in the savings and loan association from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. We’re just telling you to follow what we’re doing. Put your money there. You have six or seven Black insurance companies in Memphis. Take out your insurance there. We want to have an ‘insurance-in.’ Now  these are some practical things we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts. I ask you to follow through here.

This would become King’s last speech. The very next day, April 4, which was exactly one month to the day after the COINTELPRO memo was released, Dr. King became a victim of American terrorism.  Why? As one can see, according to Dr. King’s last speech and his writings, another side of Dr. King was developing. King began to embrace Black Nationalist tactics and strategies as a means to achieve freedom, justice and equality for Black people.

Salim Adofo is a multimedia journalist, DJ, freelance writer, video producer, social justice advocate, community organizer, educator and photographer. He’s also the national vice chairperson of training and organizing for the National Black United Front.


Why Is Tim Wise Stamping the Anti-Racist Ghetto Passes at Teach For America

Full disclosure: I applied for Teach For America in October 2012. I went through the entire process and received my rejection email in just after the new year. Additionally, I recognize that many college graduates–Black and White–have gone through the TFA program and have become effective teachers who continued to teach beyond the two year minimum that the program requires.

Further, I’m familiar with Tim Wise’s name, but not his works. I found this article by Bruce Dixon for Black Agenda Report questioning Tim Wise’s endorsement of TFA to be damning and the accusations against TFA to have some merit based on my observations and research before, during and after the application process.

Teach For America is part of an elite bipartisan scam to privatize public education, starting, and perhaps ending with the inner city. TFA replaces qualified, experienced mostly black teachers who live in the communities they serve with mostly white temps, graduated from a 5 week course who will move on to Wall Street and other lucrative careers after only a couple seasons in the classroom.

Closing public schools and replacing experienced teachers with Ivy League missionary temps isn’t something that’s being done to wealthy white suburban public schools. It’s only the prescribed remedy for school districts full of black and brown youth, and black and brown teachers.

Read Bruce Dixon’s entire piece at Black Agenda Report.

The Spirit of Garvey Must Live On

The Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey

The Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey

An editorial in The Final Call discusses the history and influence of the Hon. Marcus Mosiah Garvey. His example of self-determination and racial pride should be a model that we study and apply to the struggle for our liberation.

In the 20th century, the struggle for Black liberation produced many giants and many who suffered for daring to assert our humanity and our divine right to self-determination. One of the men of that era never to be forgotten is the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a great son of Jamaica and a father of modern Pan-Africanist thought.

The Garvey-led Back to Africa movement is one of the most important movements of that time and all time. It was rooted in Mr. Garvey’s wise understanding that the Black man had to have his own place among the nations of the earth and that continued attempts to join on to the White Western World and America were pure folly.

While others craved to be close to the former slave master, Mr. Garvey called for an end to hypocrisy and for the Negro to reject the status of an inferior being. He was inspired by the work of Booker T. Washington and Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, but never met the great educator. He was also nurtured by earlier Pan Africanist and Black Nationalist efforts.

Read the rest at final


The Ethnic Cleansing of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the Age of Obama, Part 1 of 3

By Prof. Jahi Issa, Ph.D

For more than 100 years, HBCU’si have educated African American leadership.
Although the mission statements of most HBCUs do not state this fact, HBCUs grew
out of the social disorder and aftermath of the American Civil War—a period
which constitutionally brought millions of formerly enslaved Africans into
citizenry in the United States. Similar to colleges and universities that were
created for religious groups such as Catholics, Jews and for other immigrant
groups, HBCUs were created in reaction to de facto marginalization created by a
European American hostile society. ii Because of the efforts of the Civil Right
Movement, HBCU’s were finally recognized as important institutions and were
giving special status for Federal funding. However, over the past few decades,
HBCUs have been targeted as being too “Black” and many states are progressively
trying to eliminate African Americans from these institutions that have served
as a buffer zone for the Black middle class. Some HBCUs have and are going
through hostile takeovers in order to turn them into White education facilities
and thereby permanently eliminating the African American middle class.

African Americans Perform Better at HBCU’s

Although over the years many have argued that HBCUs are redundant and irrelevant in today’s “post racial world,” the fact remains that these intuitions of higher learning, according to the National Science Foundation, graduate more than 33% of all African Americans earning Bachelor’s and doctoral degrees, almost double that compared to African Americans attending predominately White schools.3 Furthermore, according to the Washington Post, the “post racial” world that many hoped for with the election of President Barack Obama may just be an illusion.4

Relying on a recent report from the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends, the Washington Post noted that the typical White household in 2009 had 20 times more wealth ($113,149) than the typical Black household ($5,677). Moreover, another report that was conducted by Brandeis University in May of 2010 and concluded that African American will never reach wealth parity with that of White Americans.5 Both reports note that African Americans with college degrees stand a better chance at edging out a decent life in the United States than those without degrees.

According to a 1977 study that was conducted under the leadership of Dr. Mary Francis Berry, in her capacity as the former Secretary of Education in the Carter Administration, primary reasons why HBCUs tended to be better equipped to prepare students for real world experience was because they offered:

credible models for aspiring Blacks…“psycho-socially congenial settings in which
blacks can develop” “insurance against a potentially declining interest in the
education of black folk.”

Furthermore, the report posits that the ultimate purpose of the HBCU is to “represent the formal structures which nurture and stress racial ideology, pride and worth for Blacks. Consequently, they are what every racial and ethnic group is entitled to have—a political, social and intellectual haven.”6 The report mentioned above was recently vindicated in a study that was published in January of 2011. Three economists concluded that African Americans who attend HBCUs tend to perform better in the work force than African Americans who attend predominately White universities and colleges.7

The 1965 Higher Education Act and Title III: Federal Funding For African-Americans in Higher Education

One cannot discuss today’s relevancy of HBCUs without mentioning the Higher Education Act of 1965. The Higher Education Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson as part of his Great Society program that sought “to strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education.” Before the law was signed by President Johnson, the Chairman of the House Committee on Education, an African-American Harlem Congressman named Adam Clayton Powell made an amendment that defined HBCUs as “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans.”8

The amendments also legalized the federal funding of HBCUs through the Higher Education Act of 1965 Title III program. Title III is the federal governing body which sets the standard for providing funding for HBCUs. Over the years Title III had provided billions of dollars to support African-American undergraduate, graduate programs, increasing African American participation in math and science, real estate acquisitions and strengthen HBCU’ endowments to name a few.9 In all, Title III has helped African American universities not only to increase their numbers in accredited degree programs across the country; it has also allowed many HBCUs to have a tremendous economic impact in the communities that they serve.

Economic Impact of HBCUs and the Origins of a New and Corrupt Era

In 2005 the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), an office within the U.S. Department of Education, published a report that documented the economic impact of HBCUs. Primarily, this study was introduced by President George W. Bush and continued by President Barack Obama’s administration, which sought to include the participation of private sector (corporations) into the governing bodies of HBCUs.10 The study found that more than 100 HBCUs had in 2001 an economic impact of almost 11 billion dollars in the communities that they served. For instance, schools such as Howard University have a total economic impact in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area of more than 600 million dollars. For smaller schools such as Delaware State University, their total economic impact was more than 150 million dollars. It must be noted that the economic impact also made a national impression.

Again, according to the National Science Foundation, HBCUs bestowed nearly 25% of all bachelor degrees earned by African Americans in 2001. In the areas of agriculture, biology, mathematics and the physical sciences, HBCUs accounted for more than 40 percent of all bachelor degrees earned by African-Americans.11 With this stated, it is easy to see why corporations would want a piece of the pie. Furthermore, if one is to evaluate the current lack of transparency on Wall Street, it is easy to see that Wall Street’s collaboration with today’s HBCUs could represent the end of African American higher education as we know it.

The Second Corporate Takeover

Although President Barack Obama’s HBCU Executive Order 13532 “encourages private investment in HBCUs,” research proves that corporate partnerships are not new to HBCUs, nor are their historic inputs solely motivated by financial gains.12 Not long after the end of reconstruction, Northern White capitalists sought extreme ways in which they could control the ebb and flow of African American education. This was done to curtail the rapid development of African American educational institutions immediately after the Civil War.

For instance, from 1865-1880 federal agents documented that there were thousands of African American schools operating throughout the South independent of White control. When northern White benevolent groups finally reached the South with mythical-preconceived notions that they were coming to “civilize” former wretched enslaved Africans, they were astonished to see that Africans Americans had already had established their own schools systems fully equipped with African American teachers. These schools’ full missions were self-determination and political control over the regions of the South in which they were the majority.13

The high level of African American political education created a problem for the nation after the Compromise of 1877. Since African Americans were no longer allowed to exercise political autonomy in the South, strategies were devised on the federal level to control the nature of their education. The federal government, along with the corporate conglomerates in the North, believed that the only way that they could ensure the continual flow of cheap labor in the South was to train African Americans in a way that they would not advocate for political control of their communities.

Furthermore, there was another important issue at play—that was African American competition with Whites for high skilled jobs. The solution was a new type of training for Southern African Americans called “industrial education.” This type of schooling served the purpose of supervising and training African American to be subservient to White interests.14 Schools such as Hampton, Tuskegee, and Delaware State were devised as the alternative to the African American independent schools that advocated self-determination after the Civil War. The corporate-handpicked spokesman for this new type of schooling was none other than Booker T. Washington.

One must remember that Washington’s entrance exam into Hampton University was sweeping the floor. The ultimate goal of Hampton was to control the emerging Black leadership of the Jim Crow South, and train African Americans in the corporate labor needs of the new South.15 The financial backing of Hampton University and what would later be Tuskegee was provided by White Northern corporations and philanthropy. This corporate-industrial style form of education continued to dominate Southern higher educational institutions long after the death of Booker T. Washington in 1915.16

The White House Initiative on HBCUs Encourages Corporate Collaboration

The current encroachment of private corporate input into the affairs of African American higher education could and will be disastrous. It would mean that African Americans will be forced back into the Jim Crow Era. A deliberate attempt to curtail educational advancements that was gained by the Civil Rights and Black Power era seems to be the main motivation. The White House Advisor on HBCUs, John Wilson, Jr., stated in April of 2010 HBCUs “must not be seen as plaintiffs in the struggle for civil rights….”17Dr. Wilson, a graduate of Morehouse University, tends to forget that it was struggle for civil rights that literally allows him to serve President Barack Obama. The White House Initiative on HBCUs came into existence because of the “plaintiff” of the past.

Furthermore, Mr. Wilson’s statement implies that African American should abandon their pursuit for full rights and self-interest. Taking a lead from Dr. Wilson’s statements, a Wall Street Journal editor named Jason L. Liley wrote an editorial stating that HBCUs were a dismal failure and that “Mr. Obama ought to use the federal government’s leverage” to bring these schools under Wall Street’s control. He went further by stating that HBCUs should all become private and model themselves after the University of Phoenix.18

One month after Liley’s editorial, a conservative from the Wall Street funded American Enterprise Institute also imputed on Wall Street’s quest to control Black education. He ended his article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by stating that HBCUs “should accordingly be encouraged to enroll more non-black students.” The author mentioned nothing about White universities increasing African American enrollment. He also stated that “some HBCUs, notably two in West Virginia (Bluefield State and West Virginia State University), are in fact no longer predominantly black” but are still receiving special (HBCU) federal funding.19

Five months after the Chronicle of Higher Education essay appeared, the White House Advisor on HBCUs, John Wilson, Jr. was invited as the keynote speaker to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. The title of his speech “Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the Albatross20 of Undignified Publicity” conveyed that HBCU are historically cursed when it comes to publicity in White dominated media outlets. Moreover, the central thesis of his speech, although impressively constructed, was that HBCUs should jump on the corporate bandwagon by accepting funds from good corporate Samaritans such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.21

Black Colleges & White Cultural Hegemony: The Signs of the Future

Although the Higher Education Act of 1965 clearly states that an HBCU is a school “whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans,” economist and scholar at American Enterprise Institute, Richard Vedder, reminds us that there is a trend being shaped where HBCUs which formally had an African American majority student and faculty body now have White majority populations still receive federal funding geared for African Americans. These two schools are Bluefield State College and West Virginia State University. According to a May 19, 2000 CNN report, White enrollment at HBCUsis on the rise. Other schools such as Kentucky State University, Elizabeth City State University and Delaware State University are only a few schools that have a growing White and non-African American student and faculty population.

Furthermore, according to an August 17, 2011 Wall Street Journal article called “Recruiters at Black Colleges Break from Tradition,” HBCUs such as Tennessee State University, Delaware State University and Paul Quinn College are cited as no longer focusing exclusively on recruiting African Americans. The author of the article points out that Tennessee State University’s Black enrollment has reduced to around 70 %, while Paul Quinn College Black enrollment has been predicted to fall from 94% to 85% for the Fall 2011 academic year.22

Many have asked whether or not White enrollment at HBCUs represents a decrease in African American enrollment at the same schools. The year that CNN published its story, Blue field College African American faculty had dwindled to less than one percent from previous decades. The African American student enrollment had also decreased to less than ten percent. Nonetheless, research shows that when African American faculty at HBCUs is a majority, African American students tend to enroll at a higher percentage and they tend to be more productive in the work place once they graduate.

There seems to be a direct correlation between African American student enrollment and that of its faculty. In other words, if the African American faculty enrollment at HBCUs is low, African American students tend not to attend HBCUs. When this occurs, is an HBCU still an HBCU? In other words, can you have an HBCU without Black students and faculty? This is exactly the issue that American Enterprise Institute scholar Richard Vedder was raising in his essay in the Chronicle of Higher Learning. Why are HBCUs that are no longer Black in students or faculty population receiving federal monies geared toward African Americans? The federal government seems to believe that this trend represents the future for HBCUs.


1 Historically Black Colleges and Universities are institutions founded primary for African Americans.

2 The United States Department of Education, Record Group 441, National Archives and Records Administration, National Advisory Committee on Black Higher Education and Black Colleges and Universities, (1979). National Advisory Committee on Black Higher Education and Black Colleges and Universities was the precursor to the White House Initiative on HBCUs established by President Jimmy Carter in 1976 and signed into law in 1980.

3  Joan Burrelli and Alan Rapoport, “The Role of HBCUs as Baccalaureate-Origin Institutions of Black S&E Doctorate Recipients,” National Science Foundation Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, (2008).

4 Paul Taylor, “Hard hit in recession, Blacks still hopeful,” The Washington Post, July 28, 2011.

5 Rakesh Kochhar, Richard Fry and Paul Taylor, “Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics: Twenty-to-One,” Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends (26 July 2011)

6 National Advisory Committee on Black Higher Education and Black Colleges and Universities, The United States Department of Education, “Black Colleges and Universities:” An Essential Component of a Diverse System of Higher Education,” p. 27. Although not widely known, Dr. Mary Frances Berry, when she was Assistant Secretary for Education, was responsible for convincing President Jimmy Carter to sign an executive order that brought about the White House Initiative on Historical Black Colleges and Universities. This was done as a result of the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Struggle during the 1960-70s.

7 Gregory N. Price, William Spriggs and Omari H. Swinton, “The Relative to Graduating from a Historically Black College/University: Propensity Score Matching Estimates from the National Sur vey of Black Americans,” Review of Black Political Economy (2011) 38.

8 Higher Education Act of 1965, H.R. 621, 89th Cong., 1st Sess. (1965); Higher Education Act of 1965, S.673, 89th Cong., 1st Sess.(1965); Higher Education Act of 1965, Pub. L . No. 89-329 (1965); Vol. 111 Cong. Record (1965) 883, 978, 17367;

9 See the United States Department of Education’s website on Title III and it’s specific programs for African- Americans and HBCUs: “Title II, Part B.: Strenthening Historically Black Graduate Institutions Program.” U.S. Department of Education.

10 The input of private sector or corporation into the governing affairs of HBCUs was first initiated by President George H. W. Bush in 1989. See The President’s HBCU Board of Advisors Report:  “Transition Ongoing: Building Capacity in Historical black Colleges and Universities through Participation in Federal Programs.” Annual Report to the President 2007.

11 The National Center for Educational Statistics: “The Economic Impact of the Nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.” Department of Education. October 2006.

12 President Barack Obama’s Executive Order 136532.

13 James D. Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935, (Chapel Hill, 1988), pp. 1-32.

14 Donald Spivey, Schooling for the New Slavery: Black Industrial Education, 1868-1915, ( Trenton, 2007) pp. 69-90.

15 It must be pointed out that Washington was vehemently opposed by a plethora of mainstream African American leaders.

16 Raymond Wolters, The New Negro on Campus: The Black College Rebellion of the 1920s (Princeton, 1975) p. 3-30. It must be pointed out that the corporate domination of these institutions were able to control the ebb and flow of African American education for more than seventy years.

17 The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 22, 2010.

18 Jason L. Riley, “Black Colleges Need a New Mission,” The Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2010. It must be noted that a plethora of HBCU presidents denounced Riley’s article. See The National Association of Equal Opportunity in Higher Education

19 Richard Vedder, ‘Why Do We Have HBCUs?’ The Chronicle of Higher Education, 15 October  2010.

20 The word “Albatross” means an “omen of bad luck, as well as a metaphor for a burden to be carried.”

21 John Silvanus Wilson, Jr., “Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the Albatross of Undignified Publicity,” 21 March 2012. Several HBCUs have already announced their corporate collaborations. See entire speech.

22 Sue Shellenbarger, “Recruiters at Black Colleges Break from Tradition,”  Wall Street Journal (17 August 2011).

Source: blackagendareport

Dr. Issa received his Ph.D. from Howard University, his M.A. from Southern University,
and his B.A. from Texas Southern University. He also attended Candler School of
Theology at Emory University. Dr. Issa was born and raised in St. Louis, MO and
currently teaches at Delaware State University.

Reconstruction-Era Disfranchisement and Present-Day Voter Suppression

By Jasmine Tucker

Blacks exercising the right to vote during Reconstruction

Disfranchisement for African-Americans has been one of the many hurdles that Blacks have had to jump over. As early as the late 1870s, southern Democrats have worked to weaken Black political power. Violence and intimidation scared many Blacks from voting. White landlords would sometimes threaten or bribe Black sharecroppers and renters not to vote or to vote for the landlord’s candidates.

White leaders were concerned that if they forced what were then legally suitable barriers to voting – literacy tests, poll taxes, and property qualifications – they would also disfranchise many White voters. However, in 1882, South Carolina passed the Eight Box Law, a primal literacy test that required voters to deposit separate ballots for separate election races in the proper ballot box. Illiterate voters could not recognize the boxes unless White officials assisted them.

Mississippi made the most triumphant attempt to eliminate Black voters without openly violating the Fifteenth Amendment. In 1889, Black leaders from 40 Mississippi counties protested the “violent and criminal suppression of the black vote.” In response, White men called a constitutional convention to do away with the Black vote.

With 1 Black delegate and 134 White delegates, the convention formulated meticulous voting standards that – without mentioning race – disfranchised Black voters. Voting required proof of residency and payment of all taxes, including a $2 poll tax. A person convicted of arson or petty theft – crimes the delegates linked with Black people – could not vote. However, people convicted of so-called “White crimes” such as murder and rape could vote. The new Mississippi constitution also required voters to be literate, but illiterate men could still meet the criteria to vote by proving that they understood the constitution if it was read to them.

Black voting in South Carolina waned since the end of Reconstruction. Unhappy that even so few voters might decide an election, U.S. Senator Benjamin R. Tillman won support for a constitutional convention in 1895. The convention followed Mississippi’s lead and fashioned an “understanding clause” but not without a protest from Black leaders. Six Black men and 154 White men were elected to the South Carolina Convention including Robert Smalls who had been a delegate to the 1868 constitutional convention. The six Black men protested Black disfranchisement, even though their cries were not considered. White delegates didn’t even pretend that the elections should be fair.

In 1898, Louisiana added a new twist to disfranchisement. Its grandfather clause predetermined that only men who had been eligible to vote before 1867 – or whose father or grandfather had been eligible before that year – would be qualified to vote. Because most Black men had just emerged from slavery, practically none were qualified to vote before 1867, thus the law instantly disfranchised almost all Black voters. Except for Kentucky and West Virginia, each southern state had enacted complicated limitations on voting by the 1890s. As a result, very few Black men continued to vote, and none were elected to office.

In the meantime, Congressional Republicans made a last, ineffective attempt to protect Black- voting rights. In 1890, Massachusetts Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge introduced a bill to necessitate federal supervision of elections in congressional districts where fraud and intimidation were suspected. White southerners were furious and labeled it the “Force bill,” because they wrongly believed that it would force Black rule over White people.

This Federal Elections bill easily passed the House but failed in the Senate after a 33-day Democratic filibuster. That ended the last important congressional attempt to defend Black-voting rights in the South until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This week, Gene Demby of the Huffington Post wrote a truly compelling article that put a major emphasis on the importance of Black participation in the upcoming election season. The National Urban League recently posted a report that acknowledged the importance of black voter turnout in this upcoming election. The report focused on North Carolina, Virginia, and Ohio, which are significant swing states during the election period.

According to the report, from 2004 to 2008, the Black voter turnout rate increased from 60% in 2004 to 65% in 2008. The study also revealed that Blacks are more likely to vote if they are registered. About 93% of registered Blacks voted in national elections compared to 90% of Whites and 84% of Hispanics. Young Blacks were the driving force behind the rush of African-Americans at the polls.

Voter ID laws may prevent certain groups of people from voting.

Due to these significant trends, Republican-dominated legislatures have approved voter ID laws that will require voters to present certain forms of official ID in order to vote. Proponents of the laws say they are intended to reduce voter fraud. However, voting rights organizations like the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, pinpointed that voter fraud is extremely uncommon, while others noticed that the demographic populations most affected by the legislation are African-Americans, Latinos, young people, and the poor, who usually vote Democrat.

In light of this new information, I could only think back to the many methods that were imposed on African-Americans to prevent them for voting. The ludicrous thing about this circumstance is that it’s preventing Blacks, but young people, the poor, and Latinos from voting for a Black man. I still find it hard to believe that there are still people trying to institutionalize racist acts and policies on people. However this time, it doesn’t only affect African-Americans, but a whole rainbow coalition of people.

The question now is, how do we make it stop? We teach our young children about all the barriers that Blacks had to fight to receive the right to vote. Nonetheless, they are living in a time were these barriers are being recycled into legislations that now require IDs to vote. All I can hope for is that in the midst of this political war of a campaign, someone in Congress will find the heart to deter these acts, so that our children will not have to fight for the same rights our ancestors fought for years before our time.

Jasmine Tucker is a senior sociology major/African-American Studies minor at Howard University. She’s also an educational issues intern at the American Federation of Teachers. Follow Jasmine on Twitter @YourQueen2Bee and friend her on Facebook.

Jasmine Tucker: Religious Organizations and the Education of Black Children

By Jasmine E. Tucker

Nuns on a Bus Tour led by Sis. Simone Campbell

Every morning when I walk out of Union Station, I always grab a newspaper from the vendors outside on Massachusetts Avenue. One morning a few weeks ago, I opened a Washington Express paper and saw a group of elderly women on the inside. The women were just not brochure-peddling evangelists, but these nuns had created the Nuns on the Bus campaign. Sister Simone Campbell led a bus tour throughout the Midwest visiting cities such as Philadelphia, Columbus, Toledo, and concluding in Washington, D.C.

Their goal was to educate the community about the current House budget created by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Ryan’s budget, entitled “The Path to Prosperity, is going to raise taxes on 18 million low-income families while cutting taxes for millionaires and big corporations. It would also push the families of 2 million children into poverty and kick 8 million people off of food stamps and 30 million off of health care. The Ryan budget would ultimately affect residents of Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin only.

Most importantly, the budget is going to completely reshape the education field. This budget will especially hit home for me, because I am a native of Columbus, Ohio. The budget will cut $72.6 million out of Ohio’s Head Start budget, which will result in 10,416 Head Start preschool slots being eliminated, and 3,300 lost jobs over the next two years. More than $110.8 million will be cut out of special education funding affecting over 60,000 special education students in the state of Ohio. Title I funding, which is used to aid low performing schools, will also be reduced immensely. Over 65,000 students will be affected by this change, and over 1,500 jobs will be lost with a reduction of Title I spending.

Rep. Paul Ryan holds a copy of the House budget

With the partnership of various Christian, Jewish, and Muslim organizations, the Faithful Budget was created. The Faithful Budget, endorsed by the Nuns on the Bus campaign, is an alternative budget that provides a compromise that allows the wealthy to retain their wealth while uplifting the poor at the same time. In the education component of the Faithful Budget, the aims are to continue expanding education reform rather than allow Congressman Ryan to debilitate it.

I applaud Sister Simone’s efforts to reform education through an alternative budget, however I think the private religious sector may underestimate its power. If it reappropriates its efforts in a way that does not involve politics, it has the possibility of creating substantial social change. In a world where Washington politicians make all of the major decisions, the well being of African-Americans will always be last on the agenda.

A new source of power needs to be reintegrated into the African-American community. There was once a time when religious groups were able to create and sustain institutions that benefited the well being of the African-American community. Religious organizations have the capability to unite and make some major changes for the education agenda. One organization made a key impact on education for African-Americans, and its evidence is still manifesting today.

During the late 1860s and 1870s, Northern churches and religious societies established dozens of normal academies and colleges in the South. A majority of the institutions taught elementary and secondary education. Only a small amount of Black students were prepared for college level work. The American Missionary Association – an abolitionist and Congregationalist organization – collaborated with the Freedmen’s Bureau to create Fisk in Nashville, Hampton in Virginia, Tougaloo in Alabama, and Avery in South Carolina.

The American Missionary Association

These institutions implemented a curriculum based on elementary and secondary education, liberal education, and vocational education. AMA’s primary goal was to train black students to become teachers. AMA was instrumental in sending teachers and clergymen to the South to cater to the spiritual and educational needs of the freedmen.

AMA made a significant contribution by stepping from behind the pulpit and going into the community and creating sustenance. The church was able to fundraise by holding bazaars, hosting bake sales, and creating missionary and quilting societies to pay for their major projects. Some churches are doing great things by creating Christian academies and summer education programs, but collectively they can do so much more.

Imagine if Potter’s House, World Changers Church, Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York, and New Birth Missionary Baptist were to establish a campaign to raise funds for new Christian schools across the country. With the revenue that they earn in their churches and from fundraising, they could afford to maintain schools that teach African-American children. The Christian churches have the revenue and members to contribute a great deal to providing an alternative education program for African-American children. If they can feed the poor, conduct missionary trips, and still place ATMs in their churches, then they can create schools and provide books and teachers for our Black children.

Jasmine Tucker is a senior sociology major/African-American Studies minor at Howard University. She is also an educational issues intern at the American Federation of Teachers. Follow Jasmine on Twitter @YourQueen2Bee.

The Need for a Renewed Black-Operated Freedmen’s Bureau

A Bureau agent stands between armed groups of Southern Whites and freedmen

By Jasmine E. Tucker

New York City is the home to the largest population of African-Americans in the country, however only 1 out of 10 students out of the five boroughs will graduate from college. There are 33,000 abandoned homes in the city of Detroit. Cleveland has the highest unemployment rate for African-Americans in the country. Los Angeles has the highest population of homeless African-Americans in the nation. Sadly in Washington, D.C., almost half of the African-American population is suffering from AIDs.

All of these barefaced statistics are statements that we as a people have been marred by everyday in this generation’s existence. With this epidemic of suffering that is affecting millions of African-Americans; one can only wonder what the future will hold for our race. Relying on one’s faith can only get us so far. Being in America to suffer because of our race has been an underlying theme since the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade.

I can only recall one circumstance where this nation’s government has created a reform program geared specifically towards African-Americans. The establishment of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands – more commonly called the Freedmen’s Bureau – is to this day the only reform system that was geared toward the well-being of African-Americans. Even though the Bureau’s goal was to also assist poor Caucasian refugees, their main goal was to give newly- freed slaves a clean slate after emancipation to work and learn.

A renewed Black-operated Freedmen’s Bureau in today’s society may be beneficial in correcting the social injustices plaguing the African-American community. The Bureau of Reconstruction was not able to completely renovate the African-American community; however it made many strides to improve the quality of life for African-Americans after the emancipation.

By the end of the Civil War, the South had been distraught. Many former slaves and White refugees faced starvation and lacked basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. It soon became obvious to the U.S. government that additional aid was required to end the anguish in the South and help Whites and Blacks to restructure their lives. In response to this need, Congress passed the Freedmen’s Bureau Act in 1865. The agency provided food, clothing, and shelter for hungry and homeless Whites and Blacks. The Bureau was also accountable for supporting former slaves in negotiating fair labor contracts with Whites and building schools to help educate their children and themselves.

General Oliver Otis Howard

One of the first Black colleges created during the Reconstruction era was Howard University, founded in 1867 by General Oliver Otis Howard, who was also the first head of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The Bureau established camps for the homeless, fed the hungry, and cared for orphans to the best of its ability. Additionally, the Bureau provided medical care to half a million freedmen and was responsible for implementing the Special Order #15, which we all know as “forty acres and a mule.” Despite all these accomplishments, the Bureau was also very flawed.

Congress never provided adequate funds or personnel to carry out the task of assisting the poor. The allocation of Bureau agents was scarce across the South, with usually one agent representing up to 20,000 people. There were few African-American agents, because only a small number of military officers were Black. Although the bureau’s primary concern was the welfare of former slaves, it actually served more poor Whites than Blacks.

Sharecropping was in fact introduced to the South on a sweeping basis by the Freemen’s Bureau. After emancipation and the abolition of the plantation system, the Freedmen’s Bureau assisted Blacks in negotiating contracts for pay or a share of what they produced for their former masters. Sadly, once President Andrew Johnson was sworn in as the new president, he began to pardon thousands of former Confederates and returned their land to them ending the Special Order #15.

40 acres and a mule

As stated previously, America needs a new Black-operated Freedmen’s Bureau. This bureau, which was a part of the Department of War, was created to not only assist poor White refugees, but mostly to assist the approximately four million newly freed slaves. Yet Congress and its White agents manipulated their power and misappropriated funds that could have helped the poor.

In today’s society, we are not physically enslaved like our ancestors were; however we are suffering from hunger, poverty, inadequate education, unemployment, and a lack of health coverage. Maybe a new federal program that is anchored specifically towards the African-American community will usher in improvements for the well being of our people and our children in the generations to come.

If the theory of the Dubois’ Talented Tenth can be applied, I’m sure the leaders in our community can create a movement of social change. We do not only owe it to ourselves, but we owe it to our children who are going to be in this world with skin that will forever hinder them. If it could be done in 1865, I believe our brothers and sisters can bring it into fruition now.

Jasmine Tucker is a senior sociology major and African-American studies minor at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She’s also currently an Educational Issues Intern at the American Federation of Teachers.