The Value of African American Studies Courses at HBCUs

Last Updated on October 13, 2016


“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

When Marcus Garvey stated the above quote, who knew that there was merit in the words he stated. It is obvious that these words hold so much meaning and value to the hearers of them. Now, more than ever, we need to re-examine the depth of the meaning of his words.

These words prove that we need to learn everything about ourselves and this knowledge can be obtained not only through the celebration of Black History Month, but also through enrollment in African American Studies courses. Any institution of higher education has the opportunity to offer their students courses to gain a minor, major, and terminal degree in African American Studies, but there are a limited number of institutions that take this opportunity, institutions that are Traditionally White Institutions (TWIs).

The more saddening figure shows that the number of programs at Historically Black Colleges and/or Universities is significantly smaller than PWIs. However, we need these courses at Historically Black Colleges and/or Universities. The elements we need to focus on retention in the classes and the completion of a degree, along with retaining the faculty members who want to continue these degree programs at their institutions. By fostering both groups, there is a continued value in the history of a people who contributed so much to this country.

Many students who enroll at HBCUs come from school systems that rarely teach its African American students about the role of their ancestors in the course of history. Then, these same misguided students graduate and go on to college and not know the value of their heritage. However, they often attend HBCUs that do not offer African American Studies courses or any semblance of a degree in the area.

It is interesting that there are opportunities to not only minor in African American Studies, but to also receive a terminal degree at several of the nation's Traditionally White Institutions (TWIs). We need to see that trend develop at our institutions. If we would create new programs and continue the current programs we have, students will be able to learn about influential people in their history and their significant contributions to society.

When students see the successful members of their community that look like them, it instills a sense of pride in them and shows them that they too can achieve their goals in life. With the students enrolled, there has to be a leader in the classroom. An individual who has the degree to teach the course, the passion to get students involved, and the dedication to see the success of their department and classes.

These people realize the importance of our students learning about our history. Yes, at some institutions, the professors are white, but they understand that our history is not just “Black History,” but “Our History.” They have the same respect and passion as their African American counterpart.

We need to make sure that institutions keep these passionate and knowledgeable professors to further educate young students at our institutions. Allow them to employ whatever methods that they need to make sure the students learns, retains, and appreciates what they have learned.

The bottom line is this. We need African American Studies programs at HBCUs. We need to retain and graduate our students. We need to respect our professors. We need to plant our root.

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