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HBCUs​ Set Foundation for Black Politicians in Key Positions

What Kamala Harris, Alma Adams, Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams all have in common, in addition to being influential in U.S. politics, is they’re graduates of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) — Howard University, North Carolina A&T, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University and Spelman College.

Approximately 40 percent of the members of Congress are HBCU graduates, according to the Network Journal, a Black professional and small business magazine. And recipients of The United Negro College Fund and Thurgood Marshall Foundation scholarships graduate from college at rates well above the national average.

“We’re producing outstanding leaders in all of the major professions,” said Harry L. Williams, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and former Delaware State president. “Anytime you can look at [HBCU] success stories, it just enhances their relevancy and continues to move them forward in a positive way.”

Andrew Gillum
Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum attends a service to advocate for a vote recount at the New Mount Olive Baptist Church on November 11, 2018 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A statewide midterm election recount is underway to decide if Gillum or Republican Ron DeSantis will win the election. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)

This year, a record 38 women of color were elected to Congress. Many of them are HBCU graduates.

The prospect of so many Black-college graduates being elected to statewide office in the same year is unprecedented, Keneshia Grant, an assistant professor of political science at Howard University, said.

And they are touting their HBCU training. Abrams expressed her disapproval of legislation plans for education that did not include those institutions.

Gillum responded to President Trump’s tweet attacking him about his lack of Ivy League education:

Art Haywood is one of four Black state senators in Pennsylvania, and one of two from Morehouse.

“If the two Black state senators had come from Harvard or Yale, then those schools would get all the credit,” Haywood said.

“Black people have always been underestimated,” Haywood said. “I don’t think there’s any more validation required. The Black college experience is still an exceptional way to train young people.”

Of politicians like Abrams and Gillum, the president of HBCU Dillard University Walter Kimbrough said they are sending a message: “It’s a reaffirmation, not only for students but for families, that you can go to an HBCU and compete with anyone.”

Approximately 13 percent of HBCU graduates are CEOS, 40 percent are engineers and 50 percent are professors at non-HBCUs, according to the Network Journal.

The HBCUs Make America Strong: The Positive Economic Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities study shows how the United States economy benefits from HBCUs: $14.8 billion in economic impact. In addition, graduates predominantly come from low-income areas, giving them and the communities the opportunity to break cycles of poverty and open doors to successful and lucrative careers. Individual graduates can earn $927,000 within their lifetime, $130 billion collectively over their lifetime.

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