The State Must Provide: Why America's Colleges Have Always Been Unequal - and How to Set Them Right

 Adam Harris's The State Must Provide: Why America's Colleges Have Always Been Unequal - And How To Set Them Right is a most interesting book.   

Some quotes can help one understand much more (below).

In the five years between 1887 and 1893, nine states had passed laws segregating rail- and streetcars. The states had been emboldened by the Supreme Court's decisions in the civil rights decisions of 1883, when the court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1875, a law preventing racial discrimination in public places such as hotels and trains, was unconstitutional.  (p.64)

The state was not against funding private colleges, but it was not willing to spend its money on colleges for Black students when it was not forced to do so.  Shortly after its own chance at state funding failed, Manual Labor University ceased operations. (p.68-9)

On April 29, 1901, Maryville College in Tennessee acknowledged that it would go along with the state's newly passed law that barred interracial education.  The college had for decades not made distinction between Black and white people in admissions, but the stat was forcing it to do so, and its board decided that it would not b worth the $50 daily fine (the equivalent of $1,518 in 2021 dollars) to continue  educating students together. (p.71)

In 1947, 75000 Black students were enrolled in higher education out of more than 2,300,000 students at American's colleges. "Of these, approximately 85 percent were enrolled in 105 segregated institutions," the report said. (p.113)

On January 21, 1948, five days before the scheduled beginning of midyear enrollment at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, the state regents for higher education in Oklahoma moved to do just that: they planned to establish the Langston University School of Law.   It would be a law school located in the state capitol and be specifically designed for Black students.   The government would turn several of the committee rooms on the fourth floor of the capitol building into classrooms...

Sipuel prepared to head to Norman to enroll at the University of Oklahoma on January 25, but she was told that she was to head to the Langston law school  instead at eight a.m., room 426, the following day, when the law school at Langston would open its doors.    Sipuel went to Norman to apply at the University of Oklahoma anyway.   She was not surprised, once again, President Cross denied her- but the state may have been surprised that not a single Black student went on to enroll at Langston University's law school that day.   It was an institution hurried into existence on borrowed property and borrowed time that the state tried to pass off as equal. (p.115-6)

The enforcement of Title VI was weak.  Between January, 1969 and February 1970, the Office for Civil Rights in the US Department of Health Education, and Welfare (a forerunner to the Department of  Education) conducted a compliance review in nineteen southern and border states.  The department concluded that ten states were flagrantly operating segregated systems of higher education.  Those states - Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Virginia - were required to submit desegregation plans within 120 days.   Five of the states disregarded the order of the department; the other five submitted poorly formed plans.  But the office only pawed at attempts to force the states to comply or revoke their federal funds - the two things it was tasked with doing. (p.170)

Carl Brigham, a Princeton-trained eugenicist who created the SAT in 1926, wrong in his 1923 book A Study of American Intelligence that the test would prove the racial superiority of white Americans and prevent "the continued propagation of defective strains in the present population."  That meant "the infiltration of white blood into the Negro." (p.178-9)

Perhaps I should not have been shocked by those number s.  Most state flagship universities have fewer than 10 percent Black enrollment.  But more than 50 percent of the students who graduated from high school in Mississippi were Black, and fewer than 12 percent of the students enrolled at the University of Mississippi were.  ... there are only seven states - West Virginia, New Mexico, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and South Dakota  where the percentages even came close.  Less than 5 percent of the total population in each of those states is Black.  (p.200-1) 

When states slash budgets, the effect is felt most at the colleges that enroll the highest proportion of Black students each year, whether they be public regional colleges with piecemeal endowments, community colleges, or historically Black colleges.  According to a report from Center for American Progress, "public colleges spend approximately $5 billion less educating students of color in one year than they do educating white students"; that evens out to roughly $1,000 less per year, per student." (p.204)

Between 2010 and2012, 1890 land-grant colleges - which land-grant HBCUs are also known as- failed to receive more than $56,627,199 of the state support that was owed to them.

Federal officials, as ever, have been slow to penalize states for the disparity.  (p.205)

It is extremely difficult to avoid the conclusion, as one reads this book, that Black People have faced and continue to face  systemic discrimination in education at all levels over at least the past 150 years!   From the blatant statements that Blacks don't deserve equality (or any substantive education at all) to the continuing disparities today, we are Not dealing with racism in our public and private education systems.

While the tone of the author is calm, the stories with statistics are devastating!!


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