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  • Stand and prosper: Private black colleges and their students
  • Ronyelle B. Ricard and M. Christopher Brown II
Stand and prosper: Private black colleges and their students by H. N. Drewry and H. Doermann. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001. 300 + pages. Cloth $39.95. ISBN 0-691-04900-9

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are an integral part of the American system of higher education. Notwithstanding, these institutions are perpetually neglected and/or masked by considerable ambiguity within the postsecondary research and policy literature. In a departure from this academic malaise, Stand and Prosper makes a meaningful contribution to the ongoing quest for understanding, recognition, and appreciation of these institutions. The book addresses the struggles and challenges that have plagued the black college since its inception, while simultaneously highlighting their praiseworthy successes. Respectfully, Drewry and Doermann utilize a keen analytic lens to detail the realities of HBCUs in the present combined with insightful projections toward possible challenges. As a result, they produce a cohesive document that synthesizes the birth, evolution, and future of private black institutions.

Drewry and Doermann suggest that in order to demystify the complexity surrounding black colleges, it is necessary to understand their historic roots. Prior to the Civil War, the combination of slavery and segregation restricted educational access and opportunity for black Americans. During this time, the majority of the black population was located in the South where laws prohibited them from being able to read or write. While there were a few exceptions, black students were summarily denied entry to institutions of higher learning. As an attempt to amend this injustice, the American Missionary Association, along with northern abolitionists, worked to establish schools that would indoctrinate and educate former enslaved individuals and their progeny. Black colleges and universities developed, and as a result, dual systems of higher education evolved, one for European Americans and the other for African Americans. Incontestably, the educational experiences of blacks and whites were separate and unequal.

Without appreciation of that difference, one cannot understand what an accomplishment of determination and faith the success of many of these black colleges represent today, nor can one properly judge the potential of these colleges for further service to the nation."


The authors' emphasis on the historical development of black colleges allows readers the opportunity to learn about the hostile environment in which these schools were created. Drewry and Doermann also go into great detail explaining [End Page 704] the legal ramifications surrounding the birth of these institutions. The book serves as a guide for those individuals who may not be familiar with black colleges or the literature that pertains to them. It proves to be an excellent introductory tool that entices the novice to want to know more. However, for the more experienced reader/researcher, Stand and Prosper enriches the body of existing literature on black colleges and adds depth to the knowledge gained through previous work.

Although there are numerous published articles concerning HBCUs, Stand and Prosper is the most book-length composition (not to mention the authored rather than edited). D.C. Thompson did the last major work on private black colleges in 1973 entitled, Private Black Colleges at the Crossroads. The fruition of Stand and Prosper, twenty-eight years later, marks the beginning of a new era. Drewry and Doermann pick up where Thompson left off and revitalize the need for focus on private black institutions.

Although college-bound students are given a wide array of institutions to attend, increasingly more are choosing private HBCUs. The authors concede that these 45 four-year private black colleges merit investigation because they have developed into an elite class of their own (Note: The United Negro College fund numbers vary based on membership). As they attract more college-prepared students, admission requirements become more rigorous, and the value of a private black college education gains credence. Research has shown students tend to choose colleges or universities based on their proximity to their home. Drewry and Doermann, however, suggest that students will travel a great distance to attend private black colleges such as Morehouse, Spelman, and Tuskegee. Over time, private HBCUs have become the 'ebony' towers of higher education—an...


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