Last December, I got to be a part of something really special. I got a chance to deliver the commencement address for Morgan State University’s Class of 2018 graduates. Morgan State is an iconic and shining example of what HBCUs have embodied in this country for more than one hundred years: higher education opportunities that open doors for Black students and cultivate leaders who fight for equality, justice, and opportunity.
HBCUs have made invaluable contributions to the fabric of this nation, but for far too long we have failed these schools and their students. We need to call out the history of discrimination of why that is and honor the role HBCUs have played in our country. And that means really investing in these institutions — the way we should have been for generations. For decades, Black Americans were kept out of higher education because of government-sponsored discrimination. At the same time, the federal government and state governments shoveled money into colleges that served almost exclusively white students. With the financial help of Black churches, communities, and leaders, HBCUs aimed to fill that void and educate generations of Black students, often the first in their families to go to college.