How do you define a Black University?
From strictly looking at the title of Bambara article, I took it to mean what is generally referred to as an HBCU (historically black college or university). My general understanding of HBCUs is that they were founded for black high school graduates to have viable options for college since many traditional, predominantly white, colleges would not admit them. I even recall hearing that in some instances, the establishment of these HBCUs was encouraged by state governments to maintain segregation and avoid any conflicts that could arise with Blacks trying to attend white institutions. HBCUs are literally rooted in blackness and, as such, that blackness can permeate through all structural aspects of the institution – including curriculum.
After reading Bambara’s work, I now better understand what she meant by a Black University. In essence, all colleges and universities should be Black Universities – spaces where not only are Black cultural studies accessible, but ubiquitous. A Black University is a space where the contributions of Blacks to world and American culture are not overlooked, but uplifted. A Black University values more than just the academic experiences and learnings of the elite who hold PhDs and advanced degrees and gives credence to the depth of wisdom and knowledge that is gained from unique lived experiences. A Black University is as intentional, in any academic discipline, at appreciating the opinions and works of Blacks in that field as institutions and departments have historically been at dismissing those same things.
Troy, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. The juxtaposition you create between HBCUs and Bambara’s Black university raises a question for me that I also shared in response to Miguel’s post: how do we find the right balance of imagining new possibilities on one hand, and working within existing constraints and flawed structures on the other? I think HBCUs may be a good example to explore in terms of this tension, as their formation could be felt both as a space of liberation and a mechanism that fosters the continuity of segregation. What do we do with that tension? What are some similar tensions at work today?