Black universities

What are the relationships between HBCUs and Bambara’s Black University?

I was fascinated to read this piece by Bambara exploring the idea of a Black University, a piece she wrote while teaching at SEEK in the immediate aftermath of the open admissions struggle. I have been reading everything I can find on the history of HBCUs and thus have thought a lot about what it means for a college or university to be Black. Far from being obvious that HBCUs are Black institutions, students at Howard University organized a campus occupation and conference in 1968 under the auspices of a Black University—this struggle is the genesis of Black Studies at Howard in its contemporary institutional form. This made me wonder whether Bambara was thinking with the Howard students as she wrote her piece two years later—in my very brief search of the web I was unable to find any suggestion that she attended the Howard conference, yet many people who she likely knew (such as Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, and Haki Madhubuti) were in attendance. Today her archive is housed at Spelman College, where her presence pushes the institution to realize the dream of a Black university.

3 thoughts on “Black universities

  1. Karen Zaino

    I appreciate this historical point about Howard University, Lucien – a Black university is not (only) about demographic composition, but (also) about centering Blackness is all areas of university life – but that doesn’t quite seem right, either, because if universities are inherently structured around antiblackness, it seems like it may not be possible to “center” Blackness at the university in a way where it would ever still be a “university” in the sense we have come to understand it… Thinking of Moten and Harney, can Black studies ever exist meaningfully *except* in fugitive relationship to the “university”?
    I’m sorry to miss class tonight, as I am very interested in thinking more about this!

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