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  • How Black Colleges Empower Black Students: Lessons for Higher Education
  • Bonita M. Vinson
How Black Colleges Empower Black Students: Lessons for Higher Education Frank W. Hale, Jr. (Ed.) Sterling, SC: Stylus, 2006, 288 pages, $24.95 (softcover)

Do historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) provide a different experience for Black students? If so, how does the Black student experience at HBCUs differ from the Black student experience at traditionally White institutions (TWIs) and what can be learned? Frank Hale, Jr. utilized the expertise of 25 authors to provide the framework to answer these questions. This collection of thought-provoking essays was written by higher educators—most of whom have lived the HBCU experience as a student and/or administrator or have observed their power from afar. The compilation of writers was an impressive list (mostly PhDs) with an exceptional number of years in higher education, thus experts in their respective disciplines. They bestowed an understanding of the historical impact, function, and contributions of HBCUs to the U.S.

The first foreword, written by Karen Holbrook, provided the foundation in support of the need for HBCUs given gross inequities in education historically. Frank Hale, Jr., in his foreword attempted to silence naysayers of the value of the HBCU experience that the chapters to follow would demonstrate how the HBCU experience has and continues to be a source of empowerment for Black students across the U.S. In Hale's "Introduction", he shared his own HBCU experience, provided a brief historical look at how HBCUs began, why Blacks matriculated in those institutions, and whether or not HBCUs should remain a part of American higher education.

In chapter 1, Samuel DuBois Cook [End Page 362] cleverly outlined the history of HBCUs' journeys through the transformation of the Old South to the New South. He was quick to highlight the contributions of these institutions to U.S. society through their leaders, but was careful to not leave out important historical facts, people, and events that easily remind readers of the struggles that HBCUs have had to endure. In chapter 2, Frank L. Matthews and B. Denise Hawkins addressed the impact many HBCUs continue to have on the Black community amid mounting fiscal woes, declining enrollments of top students, and weakening leadership. In chapter 3, Lawrence A. Davis, Jr. outlined positive characteristics of the HBCU experience that have contributed to their success as unique institutions. He used the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff as a model for leadership development, access to quality higher education, the preservation of culture, and other important roles. In chapter 4, Elaine Johnson Copeland's essay supported the notion that HBCUs graduate a disproportionately higher percentage of African American students than other institutions (Jackson, 2001). Copeland praised HBCUs for their success in casting a wide net, cultivating more Black students, contributing to Black students self confidence and competence, and aiding with financial and cultural barriers.

In chapter 5, Stanley F. Battle, Pamela G. Arrington, Ron L. Collins, Sr., Marcella A. Copes, and Frances C. Gordon showcased Coppin State University (CSU) as a retention and graduation model that cultivates and grows its students. CSU's comprehensive focus on retention, a campus-wide initiative, involves every employee including the president. The Nursing, McNair, and Honors programs are used as examples of success. Charles V. Willie, in chapter 6, argued for the importance of mentorship programs at HBCUs. He cited his own and others' experiences as mentorees as well as noted successful university-based programs. In chapter 7, Talbert O. Shaw attributes the individual character development of Black graduates for the continued success of HBCUs. Chapter 8, written by Quiester Craig, identified and explained the most influential factors for Black student success in higher education as family, preparation, motivation, mentors, and institutional environment. He posited HBCUs have been leaders in nurturing these components for many years, but also insisted that Black students take ownership in their own destiny. In chapter 9, James G. Wingate examined the influence the HBCU experience had on Black graduates, positing that they display enhanced self-concept which influenced positive behavior, thus making them more successful. For these reasons, he argued, HBCUs will remain a necessity in...


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