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With Harris and Hannah-Jones, Howard University is on a roll – Times of India


With the shock twin hiring of two of the nation’s most distinguished writers on race, Howard University is positioning itself as one of the first facilities of Black tutorial thought simply as America struggles by means of a painful crossroads over historic racial injustice.
But then once more, Howard University has by no means precisely been low-profile.
For greater than a century, the predominantly Black establishment within the nation’s capital has educated generations of Black political and cultural leaders. Among them: Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, civil rights icon Stokely Carmichael, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison and Vice President Kamala Harris.
But even by these requirements, the varsity has been on a sizzling streak these days, with new funding streams, recent cultural relevancy and excessive-profile school additions. This previous week’s hiring of Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates serves as affirmation that Howard intends to dive neck-deep into America’s divisive racial debate.
Hannah-Jones opted towards instructing on the University of North Carolina after a protracted tenure struggle centered on conservative objections to her work and as a substitute selected Howard, the place she’s going to maintain the Knight Chair in Race and Journalism. She rose to fame with The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which reframed US historical past by means of a racial fairness lens and helped mainstream the thought of crucial race idea _ a matter that has change into a core Republican speaking level.
Coates has written critically on US race relations for years and is carefully related to the argument for reparations for slavery.
Howard’s president, Wayne Frederick, would not characterize both hiring as overtly political, however merely a pure extension of the college’s motivating ethos.
“Howard University has been on that caravan for social justice for about 154 years,” Frederick stated in an interview. “Howard has a wealthy legacy. … My accountability is to contemporize that and to convey school to the college who’re within the up to date area, talking to current-day points.”
Columbia University journalism professor Jelani Cobb, a Howard alumnus, described the moves as a pivotal jump in the university’s national stature. Howard, he said, had gone from traditionally “punching above its weight class”
to “transferring up a entire division.”
All this is just a few years removed from a period of internal tension and financial scandal. In 2018, six employees were fired amid revelations of more than $350,000 in misappropriated grant funding, and students staged a nine-day occupation of the administration building over demands that included better housing and an end to tuition increases.
But even amid those problems, Howard has seen a boost in applications and enrollment as more Black students choose to attend historically Black colleges and universities. “I do think that we’re seeing a renaissance, and that that’s driven by the students more than the parents,” said Noliwe Rooks, chair of Africana studies at Brown University. Rooks attended Spelman, an all-female HBCU in Atlanta.
Vice President Harris returned to Howard days after the hirings were announced. Speaking at a news conference on a voters’ rights initiative sponsored by the Democratic National Committee, she received a rapturous welcome from a packed house that supplied church-style “amens” and burst into applause when she called Howard “a very important part of why I stand before you at this moment as vice president of the United States of America.”
For current students, the school’s rising profile is a confirmation of their choice to attend “The Mecca” _ one of Howard’s many nicknames.
“There’s something truly intangible about this university,” said Kylie Burke, a political science major and president of the Howard Student Association, who introduced Harris at the event. Like Harris, Burke came from Northern California to attend Howard, and she served as a legislative fellow in Harris’ office when she was a senator. “Howard teaches you a thing about grit, it teaches you to remain focused, it teaches you to be persistent,” Burke said.
The hirings capped a dizzying stretch for Howard.
Within the past year, Harris was elected vice president; MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, donated $40 million; and actor Phylicia Rashad returned to her alma mater as dean of the newly independent College of Fine Arts. That college will be named after the late Chadwick Boseman, a Howard graduate whose role as African superhero Black Panther made him an instant icon and shined a fresh cultural spotlight on the school.
Boseman expressed his love for the university in a 2018 commencement speech, calling it “a magical place.” He cited one of the school’s more modern nicknames, “Wakanda University,” a reference to the movie’s technologically advanced African utopia.
Although there’s rising interest across the HBCU network, Cobb said Howard will always attract a particular demographic of Black student such as Harris with an interest in politics and governances. The school has produced members of Congress, Cabinet secretaries and mayors. One of Cobb’s undergraduate classmates was Ras Baraka, now mayor of Newark, New Jersey.
Rooks said Hannah-Jones’ move could have ripple effects throughout academia.
Traditionally, Rooks said, Black academics were drawn to predominantly white universities because that’s where the funding and the prestige lay. But Hannah-Jones didn’t just bring her reputation; she also brought nearly $20 million in funding.
“It’s a entire different factor once you change into the benefactor,” Rooks stated. “We all discover ways to behave, methods to act, within the presence of energy. If you are the facility and it is your cash, you’ve got taken a entire racial dynamic off the desk.”
Still, Howard’s rising prominence does convey the danger that it’s going to overshadow smaller HBCUs. Rooks stated Howard and a handful of different large names comparable to Morehouse, Spelman and Hampton dominate the funding and status. She stated, half-jokingly, that the majority Black American college students could not title greater than 12 of the 107 HBCUs within the nation.
The HBCU world nonetheless boils all the way down to “five or six schools that really attract a lot of attention,” Rooks stated, and dozens of others which are “determined for funding.”
Howard’s recent fortune, she said, is “not necessarily going to raise all the boats.”



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