Before Kamala Harris and Stacey Abrams broke barriers in the country’s political landscape, they thrived at historically Black colleges and universities.
Students and alumni from HBCUs around the country are celebrating the vice president-elect’s success, hoping it will change the misconceptions around the institutions’ quality of education and graduates’ social mobility.
Harris, a Howard University alumna, has regularly credited her education and even referred to it when she accepted the Democratic party’s vice presidential nomination.
“When you attend an HBCU, there’s nothing you can’t do,” Harris tweeted last month.
But she’s only one of several female politicians and activists who have become trailblazers, years after attending HBCUs. Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, attended Spelman College in Atlanta and Keisha Lance Bottoms, the Atlanta Mayor and a surrogate for the Biden-Harris campaign, went to Florida A&M University.
Cori Bush, a Harris-Stowe State University alumna, became the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress.
“This is certainly symbolic of the great possibilities that can happen in America,” Elwood Robinson, chancellor for Winston-Salem State University, told CNN affiliate WXII.
There’s more than 100 HBCUs across the country, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Most of them were formed after the Civil War to provide educational opportunities for newly freed slaves.
While they represent about 3% of the higher education institutions, at least 17% of bachelor’s degrees by African Americans are earned at HBCUs, according to the United Negro College Fund, a Washington-based national group that awards college scholarships and supports HBCUs.
It should not be a surprise that HBCUs students and alumni, like Harris and Abrams, are at the forefront of politics and social justice, said Robert Stephens, founder of the HBCU collective, an advocacy group aiming to increase support of Black higher education institutions.
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