Thursday, July 17, 2003

What Form Reparations?

I have given considerable thought to the subject of reparations for slavery and its legacy of late, a lot of thought. I have tried to wrap my mind around that which is fast becoming a flash point of both personal and political debate; not only across the country, but in Hollywood as well. A recent episode of the West Wing (a very fine show) addressed the issue and touched upon some of its complexities. And complexities there are.

But let’s leave that aside for now and address the broader issue; should the nation’s Black American population be given monetary compensation in order to atone for the forced labor of their ancestors? My short answer would have to be no! Now ask the same question another way; should the nation’s Black American population be given monetary compensation in order to atone for the forced labor of their ancestors and the resulting legacy of inequality that prevented many Black Americans from achieving even the basic tenets of the American Dream? My short answer is a hedged no, leaning towards a, “let’s see what we can do” refrain! All of which of course brings us back to the complexities of the situation.

The tide of support for reparations is rising all across the nation as the issue comes once more out of the doldrums of back room chats over poker and angry dinner table discussions, into the mainstream of American politics. Former President Clinton went on record as saying that he is against both an apology for slavery and reparations for slavery ( Bush predictably has not mentioned either the apology or reparations issue., a premiere web site dedicated to Black American issues conducted a poll on the issue, in which overwhelming support was given to the idea of reparations. The results of the poll can be viewed here ( And the old forty acres and mule argument is resurfacing as H.R. 29 introduced by Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, on March 11, 1867, makes its voice heard once again. The complete text of the bill can be read here (

But what form should reparations take? Except for the Thaddeus Stevens bill, that question has never been intelligently addressed. Should the reparations take the form of cash, real estate, or a college/technical school endowment, or voucher program? And how do we pay for them; through a special tax on just White people? Hardly fair. A one-time tax deduction, or some other tax relief for Black Americans? Again, hardly fair from a number of perspectives. And most importantly, how to craft the reparations so that they will be easy for all American to swallow (no mean feat I assure you!), or at least come to terms with?

And how does the government insure that only those directly descended from slavery receive reparations? Aside from the question addressed in the previous paragraph, this is undeniably the most vexing to answer.

Here are some thoughts. First, what form should reparations take? I think the reparations, if given, should take the form of educational vouchers to the school or technical institute of their choice for those Black Americans seeking a Technical, Vocational, Associates, Bachelor’s, Masters, or PhD degree. This not only helps Black Americans (especially Black American males) lift themselves out of poverty, but also helps the country as a whole. How you might ask? By assuring that a steady stream of highly educated and motivated individuals will join the work force well into this century as America continues to shift its economy away from heavy industry into high tech and the service industry. Any Black American alive when the bill is passed would be eligible and assured at least four years of study at an institution of higher learning, or technical program. And for those who have already completed their degrees, any and all outstanding student loans would be forgiven. The aforementioned would be the sole form(s) of reparations offered: no money, no cars, no land, and no houses.

Eligibility would be determined using census data from the latest census to determine heritage. Those Black Americans, who turned in their census forms and identified themselves, as Black Americans no matter what age, or social status, would be eligible for reparations. Census data currently on hand would be verified by home visits by census officials.

The only question left is funding. I am no economist, or self proclaimed expert on government funding, but I think a .5% to 1% hike in the corporate tax rate, along with a .25% tax on luxury items costing over $300,000 should be enough to fund the program, given the current state of the U.S. economy. In this way corporate America and the richest 1% of Americans give back to the country that gave them so much!

Good idea, or is there room for improvement? Or am I totally out to lunch? I don’t think so! The writing is on the wall; this issue will not go away and will no long stay under the rug where it has been brushed lo these past 135 years. If we are going to do justice to the past by addressing reparations for slavery and its legacy, why not do so with an eye on the future of our nation as a whole? An educated person is one of hope in the future and its promise of a brighter tomorrow. Education is now and will forever be the slayer of ignorance and the harbinger of hope. Let’s not waste yet another opportunity to enrich our nation and secure her future status by yet again turning our collective backs on her Black citizens.
Apology for the Legacy of Slavery

Apology: an expression of regret for an offense or fault.

On May 17th 2000, the mayor of the America’s third largest city, Chicago, made a public apology to the Black Americans in his city for slavery.

After tiptoeing around the issue for weeks, Mayor Richard Daley on Wednesday came out squarely in favor of reparations for the descendants of African slaves and asserted it is only right for America to say it is sorry for what it did. "You apologize for a wrong," Daley declared. "Slavery was wrong. ... Slavery has had an enormous effect on generation after generation." The mayor's comments came as the City Council voted overwhelmingly to urge Congress to consider reparations. - Chicago Tribune, May 17, 2000, Chicago Illinois

Chicago is just the latest city in a growing list of cities across the nation that has joined the cry for Congress to address the issue of an apology and reparations (the question of reparations will be addressed next month in another article), for slavery. Most White Americans—and quite a few non-white American’s, chief among them, Native Americans—have opposed the call for an apology, asserting that it was not they who were responsible for slavery. Or they assert their forefathers were immigrants, or migrant workers, or indentured servants, and therefore not responsible for slavery and all of it well documented ills.

Let’s leave aside for a moment those individual arguments and address the larger issue: should the United States Government apology for slavery? I say no, not for slavery alone. It should instead apologize for the legacy that slavery left in its wake; a legacy I hasten to point out that the U.S. government helped endow, and fed through its own well documented institutionalized brand of discrimination, bigotry, and racism. It is the legacy of slavery that has haunted every Black American—man, woman, and child—for the last 135 years, and the haunting continues to this day!

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws-14th Amendment to The Constitution of the United States of America, ratified July 9th 1868.

Citizens yes, equal under the law; in theory yes, but in reality, NO. For some 100 years after the end of slavery, the federal government was a co-equal partner in the systematic denial of Black American’s equal treatment under the law. There has been case after case, after case in which Black Americans were humiliated before the eyes of the world, denied, disrespected, set upon. And they were murdered by gun and rope, raped, blown up, and treated like second class citizens under the watchful eye of all three branches of the federal government. A federal government, which gave its support to this vile treatment by either doing nothing to stop it, or acted in concert with those who would seek to promote and champion racism and discrimination.

This against the backdrop of The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution, the very words of which speak like no other document, before or since, to the human need to be free of the shackles of oppression, tyranny, and injustice! I have often wondered how forward thinking classically, or liberally educated persons who claim the word of God as their own, can come to terms in their minds, hearts, and souls with the very obvious contradictions and ethical, moral, and spiritual dilemma’s this paradox creates.

If, and I say again, if the federal government had upheld the Constitution and believed in the spirit and the letter of the Declaration of Independence and in so doing vigorously enforced the law from the outset (end of the Civil War), how different today would America be?

Would Jim Crow laws have been enacted and enforced in the south for close to 100 years? Would the KKK have ever become the force for evil, hatred, intolerance, and bigotry it became? Would Black family’s be torn asunder and Black children—especially Black boys—feel hopeless and rudderless, finding no cause in America to call their own? Would the American dream remain but a dream for so many disenfranchised Black Americans? Would the Black Panthers ever have been born? Would the race riots of the sixties have ever flared? Would Martin Luther King Jr. and countless other Blacks and Whites have lost their lives in a struggle to bring equality to a people who should have already been enjoying its fruits? Would the deep biting pain of school desegregation and forced busing have been necessary to enrich young Black minds that heretofore had gone undernourished by the blatant indifference of the many states? Would the Voting Rights Act or Civil Rights Act have been necessary? Would affirmative action and the entire ugly debate it invites have been necessary in our nation’s corporations and schools of higher learning? Would we today be talking of reparations and apology’s if the federal government had lived up to it obligation and responsibility’s to uphold the law fairly and equally for all its citizens? And in so doing binding the many States to their collective and individual obligations and responsibility’s to do the same? I think the answer to all of those questions is a resounding NO!

Apologize for slavery in and of itself, NO, because the federal government, indeed the country was not even in existence when slavery was introduced to the thirteen colonies. Apologize for allowing slavery’s legacy, a legacy born of hatred, racism, and intolerance, which it helped, foster, YES! An apology for that and the incalculable pain and emotional scaring it caused is in order and dually demanded! A nation of the people, by the people and for the people, should not tolerate the continued subjugation and unequal treatment of ANY of the people!

In A Quest for National Identity

There can be no denying that since Black Tuesday our country has changed in ways we never would have imagined on September 10, 2001. Before September 11th, an attack on U.S. soil in which thousands of innocent people lost their lives in 30 minutes of stupefying evil was unthinkable to the average and above average American; it simply was not on our radar screens. And yet life hasn’t changed in America in some very important and costly respects. We still as society cling to the notion that we can have safety without giving up even a modicum of personal privacy or freedom.

I have read about and listened with consternation to the debates swirling around even the suggestion of a national identification card. For the record I see nothing wrong with a national I.D. card, one which has embossed upon its surface a picture of each citizen and embedded in its plastic sheathing a microchip with your current address, phone number, date of birth, blood type, drivers license number, SSN, and any police record. In other words nothing that is not already a matter of public record! All of this information would be part of a federal database and could be used by law enforcement officials to spot-check the collective identity. The card would be the size of a drivers license and clearly state that it was a federal I.D. card. Measures would taken to ensure that the card could not be counterfeited in much the same was our currency is now protected.

Much of the negative debate surrounding this issued has centered on issues of privacy and the right to be anonymous, to blend into the crowd, to go un-noticed by the various state and federal authorities. But haven’t we as a society already given up much of we seek to protect? Every baby born in the U.S. is now issued a Social Security Number before (s)he leaves the hospital; in order to dive a car you have to have a drivers license, with your picture, current name, address, birth-date, sex, and physical characteristics emblazoned across the front; colleges and universities issue student I.D.’s with the students picture on the front; and many companies require some sort of picture I.D. Credit card companies and other financial institutions routinely collect various types of personal information from us, and insurance companies delve into our personal medical histories with our consent. And yet we readily accept these intrusions into our lives, why, because it benefits us directly? Since when has public safety not been in our collective interests’?

For the record, there is no constitutionally guaranteed right to anonymity, nor is there a stated right to privacy. Nowhere in the Bill of Rights, or the other Amendments to the federal constitution, does it say that Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the citizen to remain anonymous, nor shall Congress institute any law, which encroaches upon the citizen’s right to privacy. In the landmark 1973 case Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court implied the right to privacy citing historical court precedent and the 14th Amendments guarantee to due process under law. However, constitutional scholars still debates the merits of the Courts decision, and point out again that nowhere in the Constitution does it state that the citizenry have a right to privacy!

I personally believe that every citizen has a right to privacy within the confines of his or her home, or other private dwelling. That “right” sharply drops off once a citizen enters into the public domain, wherein he/she interacts with other citizens. In this domain the, the public domain, the overall safety of society must outweigh—to a degree—the right of the citizen to privacy. If this means that we have to carry national identification cards in order to differentiate between U.S. and non-U.S. citizens, then so be it. Will the card in-and-of itself make the U.S. a safer country? Of course not, but it could be part of a whole range of steps we can take to ensure our national safety. Am I afraid the government will misuse the information gathered? No, not really, not any more than it already does, or has. Do state governments routinely misuse the information it gathers on its citizens as part of the many drivers’ license programs? I have yet to hear, or read about any wide spread abuse. Has the federal government used the vast amounts of personal information it stores about every service member and veteran that is servicing or has served in the U.S. Armed Forces to evil ends? I don’t think so. I have been retired from the Navy since 1995 and a have heard nary a peep from the government; they have not come knocking at my door, nor have they intercepted my mail, or in anyway interfered with my comings and goings from the country.

To me a national identification card is a small price to pay for putting into place another small piece of the home security puzzle. Perhaps instead of fighting the proposal, the civil libertarians could form a partnership with the government and come up with a system that protects the citizenry without compromising those rights we as a nation have come to embrace.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

The Long, Slow, Painful Decline…

“WHEN in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation…” Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence 1776.

There was a time in American public discourse when words of eloquence and principle were the norm; when our political and spiritual leaders, intelligent, well-read, and grounded in philosophical astuteness were undeterred in their speech, and with words painted a vision for the nation. They are words from the minds of men (and women) percolating with intellect and wisdom and speak to a mastery of the English language seldom heard, spoken, or written in these modern times. From the quills of these great orators dripped words, phrases, principles, and ideas which launched a nation that would arguably become one of the greatest mankind had ever envisioned. Their words nurtured by lofty ideas with notable philosophical underpinnings, sprang forth with impassioned vigor, giving birth to speeches that moved the human spirit, and captured the imagination. They were (and are) words that inspired, that motivated, that warmed to such a degree, that men and women would die to see their edict carried to fruition.

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”…Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 1863

Fast forward to the here and now and wonder in the age of the sound bite and “Axis of Evil” speeches, where have all our great political leaders gone? Where are the great intellectuals and orators of our age? Our politicians today remind one not of the inspired brilliance and vision that fashioned a nation of principles, and ideas that fueled the imagination of the world, but of insipid, naughty, elementary school children vying for a piece of turf on the playground. Their words do not inspire, they do not motivate, they do not move the soul or swell the heart; they in short leave me wanting and waiting for greatness.

Nothing illustrates this shortcoming more than the recent one year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, which felled the World Trade Center. The nation’s political leaders so void of intellectual capital and inspired vision, so mired by the quicksand of modern American politics with it’s increasingly shallow center, could not produce one original or memorable speech for the day; NY Governor George Pataki recited the Gettysburg Address, while NJ Governor Jim McGreevey recited from the Declaration of Independence! As for Mr. Bush, well, no memorable words left his sneering lips that day.

We elected a President whose words tumble from a mouth fed by a befuddled brain, which doesn’t reason, a soul which has no vision, and a heart devoid of meaningful passion. We accept, and in some cases, celebrate the limitations of our Accidental President, while the world looks on in wonder at this sad spectacle we have spawned. How could a nation that bequeathed to the world wondrous institutions of higher learning such as DePaul, UIC, Northwestern, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Grambling and MIT, long suffer the unfocused ramblings of a dullard? How could a society which crafted the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, documents hailed around the globe as enlightened, visionary, and worthy of emulation, suffer long the indignity of a body politic whose intellectual discourse is little above adolescent squabbling.

“Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.”…Martin Luther King Jr., Letter From A Birmingham Jail, 1963

It is said that a nation receives the leadership it deserves. Is that true in our case? Have we started the long slow road to intellectual, moral and ideological decline that has marked the passing of so many great human civilizations? Does our current state of public intellectual malaise signal the closing curtain on the grand experiment that is American (flavored) democracy? Will this nation with its government so ineptly led; this nation founded on the principle of governance of the people, by the people, and for the people, perish from this earth, because the principles that form the foundation of its society, its government, its very way of live, no longer have an inspired voice in its public, private and political discourse? When did idealism and praiseworthy intellect, eloquent prose, and impassioned speech, become character flaws in a nation founded by men who wore all in unapologetically abundance?
American Unilateralist; a Satirical Look


In our hunt for the perfect solution to what ales the world, the United States is slowly morphing into that which we fought so hard over the last fifty years, to slay; namely a unilateralist bully who seeks to dominate the world stage no matter the cost! In this new American awakening, where American policy, American values, and American power rein supreme, our allies have become a thorn the Bush Administration is gainfully trying to pull from its paw; but at what cost to the world at large, at what cost to peace and stability, at what cost to the American people?

My unending frustration over the issue, has given way to sardonic humor, the fruits of which I share below. I have taken passages from the opinion of Chief Justice Taney as written from the Supreme Court’s 1856 landmark case Dred Scott v. John Sanford. I have rewritten the passage to suit modern time in which we find ourselves, below each one of Justice Taney high biased, racially charged rantings. Please read and ingest it in the spirit in which is indented.

Main Body:

…[T]hey were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominate race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority…from the opinion of Chief Justice Taney, United States Supreme Court in its ruling in Dred Scott v. John Sanford, 1856.

The United States its shores pristine; its people affluent; its economy robust and still the largest upon the Earth—despite the recent downturns in trade and industry; its military second to none and able to project our will upon ocean blue, the land it touches, and the air above, sees no need to wash its policies in the tub of world opinion.

…[T]hey had been for more then a century before been regulated as being of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the White race, either social or political relations; and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect… from the opinion of Chief Justice Taney, United States Supreme Court in its ruling in Dred Scott v. John Sanford, 1856.

The rest of the world has no peoples, no laws, no treaties, or other articles of civilized governance the United States of America is bound to respect, or give the slightest consideration to. Indeed, our power, vast and unending, derived in whole from our overwhelming dominance both in the economic and military realms of human existence, guarantees us a higher perch from which to look upon the Earth and her hapless multitudes of people. We need not the burden of cooperation and compromise that flows from the substandard conventions of international treaties governing Civil Rights, Children’s Rights, Global Warming, Nuclear Proliferation, Women’s Rights & Suffrage, Chemical Weapons, Small Arms & Landmine Proliferation, etc., etc., etc. Fortress America will protect us from such petty evils and trivial concerns (except for the occasional airliner bomb) that man can think to devise.

And we need not the woefully inadequate and substandard pleadings of international laws and criminal courts, for the American citizen is a breed apart from the rest, and should be subject only to American laws, and American standards of justice, no matter his wanderings throughout the world, or the seriousness of his crimes against man or nature. Surely the world can see that the American Constitution and therefore by extension, American law and jurisprudence should be supreme in and among the worlds peoples and their varying ineffectual institutions.

And what would become of the American economic miracle if the American corporate Demi-Gods were forced to forgo their never ending quest for profit in the name of human preservation, goodwill, ethics, empathy for all living things, principles and heaven forbid, morals? Surely the world must see that what is good for America is good for the world at large? Has not the world built its standard of living off the very backs of the American worker and consumer? Are not American work ethics and American productivity the envy of the world?

…[T]hat a perpetual and impassable barrier was intended to be erected between the white race and the one which they reduced to slavery, and governed as subjects with absolute and despotic power, and which they then looked upon as far below then in scale of created beings, that intermarriages between white persons and Negroes or mulattoes were regarded a unnatural and immoral, and punished as crimes… from the opinion of Chief Justice Taney, United States Supreme Court in its ruling in Dred Scott v. John Sanford, 1856.

But alas, if the world with its petty concerns, puny economy’s, feeble militaries, and second world (most often third and fourth world), populace cannot see the shinning city upon the mountaintop that is America and give its peoples their due as citizens of the first order, then America will be forced—albeit with profound reluctance and with the heaviest of hearts—to turn its magnificent glowing eyes way from the rest of the world. Alone we shall forge our path of capitalist democracy, a path that will lead to our greatest glory yet. This, while the rest of the world plunges further still into a unity of ethical puritanical thought that ignores the beauty and sublime saneness of the thoughtless pursuit of profit at any cost. And in so doing the world ignores the promise of “Pax America!”

We need the world not, for we are supreme, we are the epitome of self-serving unapologetic arrogance. We rule, we rock, and the rest of the world can in no uncertain terms snuggle close to our collective American bum and grace its grandness, its glory, its undisputed dominance (though China would love to try and unseat us, and Russia longs to be able to muster the intellectual capital to affect another stab a glory), with a multitude of wet kisses!

Historically Black Colleges & Universities: A Legacy on the Ropes

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent narrow decision in the University of Michigan’s Affirmative Action decisions, and the question of whether or not there should be minority set-asides at the nation’s publicly funded white majority colleges and universities, broader questions beg to be asked, and answered. Namely should Black Americans continue to push to make inroads into these institutions, or should we as a community strive to make the Historically Black Colleges & University’s (HBCUs) a set of institutions that rival the best education Historically White Colleges & University’s (HWCUs), have to offer? Should the Black community forsake, whenever, and wherever possible, HWCUs in favor of HBCUs in an effort to continue the tradition of these fine institutes of higher learning, and in so doing ensure our future as an educated community of peoples dedicated to improving the American Idea?

Sprinkled predominately throughout the Southern states from Texas to Florida, and up the eastern seaboard from Georgia to Virginia, the 104 HBCUs are widely heralded for the part they played in creating much of the nation's black middle class. According to a February 21st, 2003 article by Ruby Bailey from the Detroit Free Press, some thirty percent of black PhD’s obtained them from black colleges…”as did 35 percent of Black-American lawyers, 50 percent of black engineers and 65 percent of black physicians.”

She went on to state, quoting M. Christopher Brown, a professor and researcher at the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Pennsylvania State University, that “[s]uch schools ‘remain the cultural repository for African-American history…[t]hese are institutions that demonstrated over time the ability to be effective and efficient with limited resources.’”

A Beginning Born Out of Necessity

At the end of Civil War, there were some four million uneducated newly emancipated slaves, who needed to be cared for, or they could be taught how to care for themselves. So through the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, the federal government used confiscated Confederate land and a $400,000 endowment (which lasted just three years) to start schools for the blacks across the south; blacks, who before the Civil War it had been largely illegal to educate.

As the South struggled through the pain of reconstruction, religious missionaries from the victorious Northern states began setting up makeshift schools in church basements and Union camp shacks. The schools likened themselves to colleges and universities, but in reality they were little more than tutoring at the elementary level, and a true college education was more of a distant goal than a reality. And the task was daunting, for most of the college-age ex-slaves could neither read, nor write.

It was a period of enormous uncertainty, but also unanswered prayers for the education of the newly freed black Americans. Grambling State University in Louisiana, perhaps one of the better known HBCUs was started by Black farmers; Fisk University in Nashville was started in wooden shacks on confiscated Confederate land. Again, Ruby Bailey in her February 21st, 2003 Detroit Free Press article, quoting Prof. Reavis Mitchell, chairman of Fisk University 's history department, states, “[e]very time it rained, little buildings got washed out…[i]n the summer, there were the mosquito infestations and the ticks.’” Two slaves started Talladega College in Alabama, and still other HBCUs were funded by well meaning white philanthropists. Spelman College, an all-women's college in Atlanta and perhaps the most well-known HBCU, was started in the basement of Friendship Church with 11 students. The room had dirt floors, and if it rained the floor turned to mud, and if the sun didn’t shine there was not enough light to conduct class.

And of course the schools were threatened by angry white men. Many were in the heart of the newly formed Ku Klux Klan, and had watch towers manned by students at night. But through it all HBCUs prospered and educated millions of Black Americans.
But that legacy is threatened.

Fighting To Stay Alive; a History of Under-funding

The 1896 Supreme Court decision in Plessey vs. Ferguson condoning segregation, and institutionalizing “the separate but equal” doctrine, prompted states to finance public black colleges in an effort to keep young Black American students out of HWCUs. But the states only allocated enough funds so that they were seen as doing something, and the funding levels never reached that of HWCUs, and it shows in the paltry endowments all of the HBCUs have to operate from.

A recent Thurgood Marshall Fund (a scholarship program to help black students attend one of the 45 member HBCUs) study shows that of the 37 public HBCUs, that responded to its inquiries, 26 have endowments of $1 million to $6 million—much less than many comparable institutions. Consider the endowments of top fifty HWCUs in Year 2001 dollars: Harvard University ranks number one with some $17.5-billion; Yale University is in second with $10.4 billion, Mayo Foundation ranks 25 with some $1.5-billion, and Penn. State University ranks 50 with some $942 million in its endowment fund.

Contrast that with Howard University in Washington D.C. which ranks number one among HBCUs with an endowment of just $305 million, Spelman College with an endowment of $220-million, and Harris-Stowe State College in St. Louis has the smallest endowment fund of just $796,000, and three other HBCUs with endowments of less than $1million. The total endowment figure for all 104 historically black schools, public and private, will total some $1.6 billion for 2003 according to United Negro College Fund figures.

While the desegregation of the mid 20th century opened the doors for young black American students to attend HWCUs, the shift siphoned off some of the best and brightest black American students and professors from HBCUs. This led to declining enrollments. Forcing some of the financially weaker school to lower tuition only served to worsen an already dire situation.
Though the Bush administration recently proposed a 5-percent funding increase for HBCUs—to $224 million—in the 2004 federal budget, that is just a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to what these schools really need to survive and thrive financially.

Morris Brown College in Atlanta, GA is struggling and may not survive. The college is $23 million in debt, and is fighting off lawsuits from unpaid vendors while the institution battles to pay daily operating expenses. The college lost its accreditation from the Southern Association of College and Schools in December 2002, citing among other things the Morris Brown’s record of bad bookkeeping and lack of faculty members with advanced degrees, as the reason for the Association’s decision. The school is appealing, and graduated its seniors early in March to ensure their diplomas would be accepted.

We have in our HBCUs a rich tradition of learning and service to our community. But because of a litany of problems, not the least of which is chronic under-funding (for all) and mismanagement (in some cases), that tradition for some HBCUs might well be coming to an end. What are the answers? Here is one. The push for reparation for the scourge of slavery is in full swing. But there is a wide disparity of opinion as to what form the reparations, if paid by the federal government, should take. In my previous article entitled “What Form Reparations?” I advanced the idea that reparations should be paid in the form of education vouchers given to black Americans to attend a college or university.

Now I would like to propose something even more far-reaching; a proposal that would help not only the black community, but enrich the lives of all Americans; from the reparations endow all of the HBCUs to the sum of $1 billion each. This would bring them up to the level of some the best HWCUs in the country, allow these schools to modernize and expand, and attract nationally recognized black professors, and other faculty. In addition, this money would greatly expand the scholarship offering from these schools and help attract the best and brightest black students.

Good idea? Drop me an email and let me know what you think.


Bailey, Ruby L. Proud Past, Uncertain Future: Some Historically Black College are Fighting for
Their Lives. Detroit Free Press. February 21, 2003.

<>. 2002. College and University Endowments, 2002. 29 June 2003