The Story of Black Colleges as Research Paper Topics

The documentary Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities focuses on the impact these schools have had on the culture, history and identity of African Americans in the United States.

Discover more on the history of black colleges.(Credit: YouTube)

Discover more on the history of black colleges. (Credit: YouTube)

Research paper topics spurred on by the film could focus on how these higher education opportunities came to be in the first place or if their role changed with affirmative action.

Behind historically black colleges and universities

As historically black colleges and universities were first coming into existence, not all African American leaders agreed on how quickly they should push for change—including changes in terms of higher education—in their lives. In “The Real Story Behind Historically Black Colleges and Universities” posted on April 10, 2017, Adam Ramsey told of one difference of opinion in regards to this issue between Booker T. Washingon and W.E.B. DuBois.

Ramsey explained that Washington believed African Americans, newly freed, shouldn’t demand too much, too soon. He wrote, “But that was far too little for Du Bois, who called such an educational approach a ‘program of industrial education, conciliation of the South, and submission and silence as to civil and political rights.’” A research paper could explore more about how these two icons of African American history played a role in higher education for African Americans then and now.

The story behind Tell Them We Are Rising

The documentary Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities details the 170-year history of black colleges and what their impact has been on higher education. It was once illegal to teach a slave to read or write, and when black colleges first began, slavery was still legal. A research paper could discuss how these colleges contributed to abolishing slavery, while also elevating the lives of those African Americans who received a higher education.

Maddy Kadish posted “When Institutions Foster More Than Education” on February 17, 2017, for Independent, with more about what the documentary covered. She wrote, “The project documented and contrasted the conditions of schools for African-American and white children across the south. This later helped to turned the tide against segregation in schools.” These historically black colleges and universities also contributed to other societal changes such as the civil rights movement and other resistance movements, all the while educating millions of African Americans.

Higher education and affirmative action today

There are more than 100 historically black colleges and universities still in existence today, and they provide higher education to about 300,000 students. Dr. Alvin Thornton wrote, “HBCUs and the Nation’s Higher Education Goals” for the April 6, 2017, issue of Diverse Issues in Higher Education with more statistics on these institutions. For instance, “Although our nation’s HBCUs are only 4 percent of its colleges and universities, they award approximately 22 percent of all bachelor degrees earned by African-Americans,” he explained. They play a critical role in awarding STEM degrees in particular, with 24 percent of science and engineering bachelor’s degrees earned by African Americans coming from black colleges and almost 35 percent of bachelor’s degrees in physics, mathematics, biology and chemistry.

A research paper could examine the criticism of affirmative action as it pertains to higher education, as well as the impact that historically black colleges and universities have had on African Americans receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Want to learn more about higher and adult education? Check out Questia—particularly the section on historically black colleges.

What is the role of historically black colleges and universities in higher education today? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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