The significance of historically Black colleges and universities throughout the country spans far beyond the realm of education. The institutions serve as cornerstones of Black culture and have produced scholars who have been at the forefront of transformative change. President Joe Biden’s administration recently unveiled an initiative centered on celebrating the rich legacies of HBCUs.
Earlier this week, the White House kicked off National HBCU Week; an observance that featured a myriad of events hosted to illustrate and amplify the importance of historically Black colleges and universities. During the historic week, President Biden signed a proclamation for HBCU Week to be observed September 5 through September 11. He also inked an executive order to establish the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Opportunity, and Excellence through HBCUs in an effort to eradicate obstacles the schools may face when seeking participation in federal programs.
Among the events were conversations centered on the protection and preservation of the institutions. The discussions highlighted a wide span of topics, including the federal funding the Biden-Harris Administration has allocated for HBCUs and health and safety protocols for reopening amid the pandemic. Dr. Cameron Webb and Dr. Anthony Fauci hosted a conversation about schools leading the charge when it comes to ensuring underserved communities are vaccinated.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre hosted a press briefing for HBCU students pursuing journalism degrees. Vice President Kamala Harris, a Howard University alumna, visited Hampton University to discuss the need to increase representation in STEM and how HBCUs will play pivotal roles in changing the narrative surrounding diversity in the industry. “HBCU students, you are some of our nation’s most brilliant thinkers and changemakers,” she tweeted, following her visit. “HBCU alumni have always fought for the best of who we are as a country. Happy HBCU Week!”
President Biden highlighted the contributions of HBCUs; sharing how they’ve been instrumental in shaping generations of leaders. “Since 1837, historically Black colleges and universities have educated and prepared millions of people to lift up our Nation and make their impact on the world,” President Biden wrote in a statement. “These essential institutions have been critical engines of opportunity for generations of American families—they are incubators of excellence, helping to shape the story of our nation and deliver on the promise of a more perfect union. During National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week, we celebrate the vital role that HBCUs play in molding Black leaders and ensuring that America continues to move closer to reaching its full potential.”
Vince Evans, a Florida A&M University alum who serves as Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement & Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of the Vice President, added that it was a “privilege to work for the first HBCU graduate to serve as the Vice President and an Administration that understands HBCUs are engines of opportunity that are instrumental in preparing future leaders.”
For the Biden-Harris Administration—which has a record number of HBCU graduates working on their team—National HBCU Week is an extension of other efforts they’ve led to advance historically Black colleges and universities. Nearly $1.6 billion has been distributed among 45 schools for debt relief initiatives. The administration also proposed $239 million in institutional aid for HBCUs as part of the Department of Education budget for 2022.