Posted on July 2, 2019

‘Your Heritage Is Taken Away’: The Closing of 3 Historically Black Colleges

Wadzanai Mhute, New York Times, June 28, 2019


In December, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges voted to eliminate Bennett’s accreditation because of the school’s bleak financial report. Without it, the small, North Carolina-based private school is ineligible for federal funding, a likely death knell.

Bennett, founded in 1873, is fighting the decision in court. If it loses, it could become the latest in a long line of historically black colleges and universities to succumb to time and financial woes.

For nearly 200 years, since the opening of Pennsylvania’s Cheyney University in 1837, H.B.C.U.s have educated thousands of students, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Justice Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, Representative Elijah Cummings and Senator Kamala Harris. But from a high of 120 such schools to about 101 in 2019, many have faced an uncertain future. In the last 20 years, six have closed, and several others remain open in name only after losing accreditation.


After receiving an associate degree from Morristown, Mr. Johnson attended Albright College in Pennsylvania, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts, and then the United Theological Seminary in Ohio, where he received a Master of Divinity. He is now the senior pastor at the historical Tindley Temple United Methodist Church in Philadelphia.

“H.B.C.U.s need investments from our own community, our millionaires and philanthropists and churches should take the time to invest in H.B.C.U.s,” he said. “They are struggling because there has always been a shoestring mentality.”


“H.B.C.U.s are definitely needed on two levels,” Mr. Johnson added. “One, there is something about H.B.C.U.s that lends itself to a pride for community; it calls us into a culture of oneness. There is a need for them to be nurtured and not to be swallowed up at traditional universities.

“Second, they are needed because we are rapidly losing our history and sense of belonging. They are needed now more than ever due to violence and other things going on in the community.”