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Well, this week we celebrate four giant letters, folks… H– B – C – U.  That’s right, each year in mid-September, we recognize National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week.

Some of you may recall the online hypothetical scenario from a number of years ago that examined what the world would be if there were no black people. Well, today, I want us to consider what our community and our modern world would be if our HBCUs never existed.

Just imagine how the field of education itself would be without the contributions of Mary McCloud Bethune or Booker T. Washington, the founders of Bethune Cookman College and Tuskegee University…

What state would American race relations be in if the NAACP hadn’t been co-founded at the turn of the 20th Century by Fisk University alum W.E.B. DuBois? Or what would the state of world literature be without the writings and poems of Lincoln University’s Langston Hughes or the groundbreaking novels of Nobel Prize winner, and Howard alum Toni Morrison?

Daytime TV, the movie industry, the economy and the black female’s billionaire club would all take some serious hits if a woman named Oprah hadn’t been produced by Tennessee State University.

Where would Hip Hop music and Hip Hip entrepenaurialism be –and would we even know the name of the late and legendary Biggie Smalls—if not for the training Sean P. Diddy Coombs received at Howard University?

And in football, where would the modern-day standard for the positions of running back and wide receiver be without the record setting and unparalleled feats of Jackson State’s Walter Payton and Mississippi Valley’s Jerry Rice?

The civil rights movement would probably never have existed if not for two HBCU alums by the names of Thurgood Marshall and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who were educated and groomed respectively at Howard Law School and Morehouse College. Not to mention the fact that the American legal profession would look drastically different if not for late Supreme Court Justice Marshall.

And, finally, where would the American political system be today without the incomparable Dr. Ron Walters who lost his battle with cancer less than a week ago?  As campaign manager for Jesse Jackson, Fisk graduate and Howard professor Dr. Walters planted the seeds in the minds of millions that a Black man could be a serious candidate for president of the United States.

Yes, without HBCUs, the phenomenal ascension of President Barack Obama, plain and simple, does not happen.

Such examples show how imperative it is us for us to support our HBCUs and their evolution into our new century as still-relevant institutions well-versed in the art of producing greatness.

For if we don’t, we’ll be left to sit around and imagine what could have been.

Stephanie Robinson is President and CEO of The Jamestown Project, a national think tank focused on democracy. She is an author, a Lecturer on Law at the Harvard Law School and former Chief Counsel to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Stephanie reaches 8 to 10 million listeners each week as political commentator for the popular radio venue, The Tom Joyner Morning Show.  Visit her online at

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