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Black Science Whiz on History-Making M.I.T. Gene Team April 30, 2008

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The MIT research team responsible for creating the world's first mint- and banana-scented E. coli.

The 2006  iGem research team: Stephen Payne (from left), Boyuan Zhu, Tom Knight, Reshma Shetty, Andre Green, Veena Venkatachalam, Samantha Sutton, Jason Kelly, Austin Che, Barry Canton, and Kate Broadbent. 

The person who first said “youth is wasted on the young” didn’t know the student scientists on M.I.T.’s 2006 iGem research team. This group of student scientists has  recently received national and international attention for engineering a form of e. coli that smells minty fresh. The idea of mint-smelling bacteria is peculiar enough, in and of itself; but its strangeness is amplified by the fact that, in this case, the wintergreen is wafting from e. coli, that notorious bacteria (iGem team members describe it as smelling like “poop”) that aids and abets digestion when confined to the intestines, but causes severe illness and even death when ingested (usually accidentally) by mouth.

For this team of young scientists, however, creating mint-scented e. coli was only the beginning. Their next innovation grew out of a desire to avoid the tedium of waiting around in the lab, monitoring their e. coli cultures to determine when there were finish growing. To address this issue, the M.I.T. research team went back to work, manipulating the genes of their already altered bacteria until they found a solution. They were able toalter the genes in their e. coli sample significantly enough to effect this shift in it’s odor: while it is growing it smells like wintergreen, but when it stops growing, it smells strongly of banana.

To hear an NPR interview with a couple of the members of the iGem 2006 research team, click HERE.

The research team behind this history-making research project includes only one African American member, Delbert Andre Green, II, a native of Louisiana and a major in Biological Engineering, M.I.T.’s newest major. He is part of the institute’s first class of Biological Engineering majors and will graduate this spring (2008). 

Green  has long been interested in life sciences. For example, he showed a strong aptitude for science at the age of 16, when he was awarded a $1000 prize from the Dupont Center for Collaborative Research, through the 2003 Intel ISEF Government & Industry Awards. His winning research project was titled, “Unique Combination of Linear Algebra, Differentiation and Integration Techniques to Elucidate the Implications of Kidney Stone Characteristics.

At M.I.T. Andre has served as an officer in the Black Student Union, the Biology Undergraduate Students Association, and Advocates for Awareness, a race and diversity awareness organization.

Andre Green in the Lab

Engineer at work: Andre Green in the Lab

Posted by Ajuan Mance



Your Black History Horoscope: Were You Born in 1966? April 28, 2008

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I was. Lyndon Johnson was in office, the number one song of the year was The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer,” and A Man for all Seasons won the Oscar for Best Picture; but on college campuses another kind of history was being made.

Black History Horoscope* for people born in 1966:

Historical Happennings in 1966 (from TwilightandReason.com):

  • Dr. Samuel P. Massie becomes the first African American professor at the U.S. Naval Academy (Chemistry).
  • On June 3rd of this year, Maxwell Scarlett becomes the first African American student to graduate from the University of Texas at Arlington (B.S. in Biology).
  • Merle J. Smith becomes the first African American cadet to graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT.
  • The Black Panther Party is founded in Oakland, CA by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton. The two met at a rally opposing the blockade against Cuba while Seale was a student at Merritt College and Newton was enrolled at Oakland City Law School.

Horoscope Summary

The year of your birth (and mine) is characterized by its the pioneering spirit, creative political thinking, leadership, and sheer courage of those African American students and teachers who were creating change in their community, on their campuses, and in the nation at large. You can make the social and political changes that you desire to see in your world, but you must to bring the creativity and courage of Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. They used their innovative vision of African Americans turning to meet the violent racial terrorism of the 1960s with an attitude of entitlement to bear arms for self-defense to rock the nation and to truly transform the way that African Americans were perceived, both by Black folks and non-Blacks alike.

By the same token, you must also look beyond those places where African Americans are most commonly found if you are to make truly broad and lasting social change. Consider Merle J. Smith and Maxwell Scarlett who sought to pursue their educational dreams and goals in places where Black folks had previously been unwelcome. Also remember Dr. Samuel P. Massie who not only sought to enter a profession (academia) that to this remains relatively inaccessible to Black people, and in a discipline in which African Americans continue to be quite rare, but who also pursued his career at an institution in which Black people had never previously served as full-time, permanent faculty members.

The fact that you were born during that year already makes 1966 a special time for you. Pioneers and innovators like Newton and Massie have paved the way for you to make the occasional of your birth a fortunate occurance for us all.


 In 1966 Merle J. Smith became the first African American to graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Today he is General Counsel at a maritime security firm.

*Your Black History Horoscope is not based on the month and the day that you were born, but on the year. The Black History Horoscope looks at the year in which you were born, and — based on the Black history being made during that time — assigns a set of qualities and values that distinguish the year of your birth.
Black History Horoscopes seeks not to predict the future, but to issue a challenge, to live up to and exceed the characteristics of the Black historical innovaters and change makers of the year of your birth, and to perpetuate the values manifest in their actions and impact.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Congress Acts to Stem the Tide of Rising Textbook Costs April 25, 2008

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Getting into college is only the first step. To successfully complete an undergraduate program a student must have textbooks; and every student (past or present) who has been all or partly responsible for shouldering the cost of their books knows that simply being able to afford the high cost of college textbooks can be a challenge in and of itself.

The high cost of textbooks disproportionately impacts Black, Latin American, and Native American students, the great majority of whom receive financial aid, and a significant proportion of whom are first-generation college matriculants. For these students, the exorbitant price of some college texts poses a much greater financial hardship than decreasing the amount of money available for clothing and entertainment. Such students often fund their school books through part-time or full-time work, the proceeds from which must also cover housing, food, tuition and — for these often uninsured students — any healthcare costs. For students with children, the financial hardship of inflated textbook prices is amplified.

The shocking cost of many college textbooks also conveys a powerfully elitist message about the culture of higher education, a message that can undermine the success of students for whom the college environment — with it’s upper-middle class and 2nd- and 3rd-generation college matriculants — can feel like an alien environment in which the scholarship student, the student of color, and/or the first-generation student is an interloper or imposter. For these and other economically marginalized students, the experience of walking into the campus bookstore and realizing that the price of the required texts exceeds his or her available funds can be a sad reinforcement of that student’s deepest doubts about whether or not he or she even belongs in school.

In a surprising but welcome move, however, the U.S. House of Representatives has taken important steps toward alleviating the burden of textbook costs for all students on campus. An editorial in today’s New York Times describes the magnitude of this problem and Congress’s pending legislation on the issue:

College students and their families are rightly outraged about the bankrupting costs of textbooks that have nearly tripled since the 1980s, mainly because of marginally useful CD-ROMs and other supplements. A bill pending in Congress would require publishers to sell “unbundled” versions of the books — minus the pricey add-ons. Even more important, it would require publishers to reveal book prices in marketing material so that professors could choose less-expensive titles.

Like the Times editors, I agree that this is “a good first step”; but unbundling college textbooks will only address one aspect of the problem. Even unbundled, textbooks are grotesquely overpriced, with some books costing $100.00 or more, and all of this for a book that will have little resale value, because students in subsequent years will likely be forced to purchased a newer edition.

The Times editorial poses several possible solutions to this problem:

[…] colleges and universities will need to embrace new methods of textbook development and distribution if they want to rein in runaway costs. That means using digital textbooks, which can often be presented online free of charge or in hard copies for as little as one-fifth the cost of traditional books. The digital books can also be easily customized and updated.

The editorial also highlights some initiatives already in place to reduce the cost to students of required course materials:

Schools are beginning to balk at outrageous pricing. Rice University offers textbooks for some classes free online and charges a nominal fee for the printed version. A new company called Flat World Knowledge, based in Nyack, N.Y., plans to offer online textbooks free and hopes to make its profit by selling supplemental materials like study guides and hard copies printed on demand.

In my opinion, schools cannot embrace textbook cost reform fast enough. Politicians, pundits, and social activists across the nation are decrying Black students’ alleged belief that education is a “white thing.” I do not, in fact, believe that this is true; but if it was — if the prevailing belief among Black youth was, indeed, that book learnin’ is a white thing — then I say, who can blame them. Nothing conveys that education is for rich, white people only, like the discovery that the cost of a single textbook for your calculus course is $178.00.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

5 Black Students Among This Year’s Truman Honorees April 24, 2008

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On 4/24/08 aJournal of Blacks in HIgher Education report highlighted the 5 young Black men and women who are among this year’s Truman Scholars.

The Harry S. Truman scholarship foundation provides this description of its scholarship awards:

The Truman Scholarship provides up to $30,000 in funding to students pursuing graduate degrees in public service fields. Students must be college juniors at the time of selection. The Foundation also provides assistance with career counseling, internship placement, graduate school admissions, and professional development. Scholars are invited to participate in a number of programs: Truman Scholar Leadership Week, The Summer Institute, The Truman Fellows Program, and the Public Service Law Conference. Please visit the For Scholars section of the website for an overview of the programs the Foundation currently offers for Scholars.

This year’s Black Truman scholars, as described on the Jbhe wesbite, are as follows:

• Danielle Maria Allen is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is majoring in public policy and economics with a concentration in urban studies. She plans to go to law school and to focus on education law. Allen, from Monroe, North Carolina, has worked as a volunteer for a U.S. Department of Commerce research study on the effects of racial discrimination on economic relations.

Jennifer Collette Bailey is a native of Illinois. She is a political science major at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. At Tufts, she is the president of the local chapter of Emerging Black Leaders and codirector of the Tufts Social Justice Arts Initiative. After graduation, Bailey wants to pursue master’s degrees in both public policy and divinity.

Aysha Reniece Gregory was born and raised in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She is currently a student at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Gregory is pursuing a double major in political science and Africana studies. She has served as an intern for Congresswoman Donna M. Christensen. Gregory plans to obtain a master’s degree in public policy and then go on to law school.

Jarvis Conell McInnis is a native of Gulfport, Mississippi. He is currently an English major at Tougaloo College, a historically black educational institution in Mississippi. He was honored as National Youth of the Year by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America for his effort in raising $25,000 to rebuild clubs devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

McInnis plans to seek a master’s degree in African-American studies and a Ph.D. in English literature.

Thomas Hayling Price, from New Rochelle, New York, is a student at the University of Pennsylvania. He is pursuing a double major in urban studies and Africana studies. He spent a summer abroad in Ghana researching economic development. He plans to go to law school and to concentrate on public interest law.

Congratulations to these and the other 65 Truman scholarship recipients. May you have success in your future studies. May reach all of your intellectual and political goals, and may you work within your nation and beyond, to improve the lives of all people.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Making Bucks while Hitting the Books April 22, 2008

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The decision of Fairburn, Georgia school officials to pay students to earn good grades may seem like the ultimate expression of desperation. Indeed, to pay students for something that is, fundamentally, both a right and a privilege seems a bit off the mark.

And yet it appears that paying students to learn has the capacity to motivate the community’s sizeable population of at-risk youth to prioritize school over the other distractions — family strife, alienation, economic struggle, street violence, and peer pressure — that compete for the attention and energy of troubled teens. Indeed, over 90% of the students who participate in the “Learn and Earn” programs at Creekside High School and Bear Creek Middle School (both in Fairburn, Georgia) are low-income students of color.

Odette Yousef describes the origin and details of this program in this transcript of her report from this today’s edition of NPR’s Morning Edition:

A pilot project sponsored by a local foundation is offering a group of low-income students $8 an hour to go to after-school study sessions twice a week.

Jackie Cushman, engineer of the Learn and Earn program, said she hopes the money will get the kids into the classroom, but that, once there, they’ll start to enjoy learning.

Cushman is the founder of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Learning Makes a Difference. She’s also the daughter of former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who suggested paying low-income students to improve their grades in a 2005 speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Cushman launched Learn and Earn this year after an Atlanta businessman offered to sponsor it, and Creekside High School in Fairburn, Ga., and neighboring Bear Creek Middle School fit the right profile for it. More than 60 percent of the students are considered low-income; more than 90 percent are minorities; and the schools trail district-wide achievement rates by eye-popping margins.

Click HERE for the full text of this transcription.

Not surprisingly, the “Learn and Earn” program has faced with a lot of criticism, especially from those who fear that this program inhibits it’s young participants from developing an appreciation of learning for learning’s sake.

While these are understandable concerns, I come down on the side of Cushman and other supporters of “Learn and Earn.” Like Cushman, I believe that paying kids to learn now is simply a way of engaging them in a process that they will, as they mature, come to value in and of itself. I don’t really care why the kid sin this program are getting good grades. I am more interested in the fact that a previously disenfranchised student population has found a way into academic achievement. A sense of the inherent value of education will come along the way; as these young men and women gain access to college and careers they will begin to see the value of learning, above and beyond the small sum they were paid for good grades and study habits in junior high and high school.

Posted by Ajuan Mance


Those Wacky American Blacks and that Crazy Achievement Gap April 21, 2008

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This past weekend I stole a few moments to catch up on some of my favorite blogs. The March 18 post on the New York Times Freakonomics blog made me pause in my tracks. The entry, titled “How Can the Achievement Gap Be Closed? A Freakonomics Quorum,” was posted by Freakonomics co-author, Stephen Dubner.

The blogpost iteself was benign enough, though decidedly slanted toward a social sciences analysis of a problem that I believe requires a multi-disciplinary approach. Through the miracle of online communication, Dubner assembled a diverse group of economists, policy analysts, and education administrators and posed this single question: “How can the U.S. black-white achievement gap be closed?”

The assembled respondents — Caroline Hoxby, Daniel Hurley, Richard J. Murnane, and Andrew Rotherham — offered compelling, thoughtful, and earnest solutions, mostly based in the notion that a combination of school transformation and community investment and family support could effect great enough change in the U.S. education system to at least begin to close the racial achievement gap between Black and white students. Click HERE for a link to the blogpost in quesiton.

The reactions that followed, however, were a completely different story. I remember a Vibe Magazine interview with Black feminist scholar bell hooks in which she made a truly thought-provoking observation about how in the U.S. the white majority uses the highly publicized foibles, errors, and crimes of the most troubled and vulnerable members of the Black community as a vehicle for confronting and exploring its own challenges and issues. Hooks gave the examples of O.J. and Mike Tyson, each of whose highly publicized arrest and trial served as a launchpad for white America’s discussion of domestic violence and acquaintance rape, respectively and including the impact of this crimes in majority communities.

The curious collection of readers’ reactions to Dubner’s assembled experts (which range from the measured and constructive to the bizarre to the patently racist) can be explained in no other way than as the phenomenon that bell hooks describes, as a bizarre ritual of objectification, honing in on issues facing all young people in crisis (failing schools in impoverished areas, lack of parental involvement, inadequate education funding), but filtering it through the experiences of Black youth who are, throughout, characterized as always already underachieving and underprepared.

Many readers’ reactions to this post were engaging, creative, thoughtful, and provocative. The excerpts below, however, represent two of the most disturbing trends I noted among the responses. They are 1) the pathologization of U.S. Black culture as degraded and degenerate compared to those of other American minority groups, including the culture and values of Caribbean and African immigrants and 2) the assertion that the problem of Black student underachievement is rooted in their generally lower I.Q. scores, and issue whose only apparent solution would be the removal of African American children from their families of origin. Here are a few choice excerpts from the reader responses to Dubner’s March 18th post: 

  • “Achievement is something that is earned by the student through work, not something that can be given by the state. Only opportunity and help can be given. If a student does not want to learn, or has other factors in their lives that make it difficult for them to learn, then there is very little that the state can do for that person.”
  • “I agree that Richard J. Mundane ignored the elephant in the room by blaming it on “poverty” when in fact all the empirical evidence shows that Asian and white kids do better in poor areas than Latin and Black kids, and ditto in wealthy areas – on AVERAGE. We also know from international testing that kids in poor countries often score much higher than American kids. Finally, we know that Black kids in American schools who have at least one grandparent who is Caribbean or African score much better than other African Americans. All of which points to the fact that its largely a family/social expectation thing. And I should know – I am half Mexican, half black, went to Berkeley undergrad and Stern for MBA (so I did well academically) but ALWAYS heard from my black and brown peers that I was “acting white” or “thought I was too good for them” because I took AP classes, etc. The fact is, we know from looking at the scores of Black and brown kids in wealthy school districts that until their is more social and parental pressure to do well, White, the Indian and Chinese (and even Caribbean Black) kids will do better.”
  • “My family is black. My sister attends Columbia, and I went to Stanford… We both did very well on our SAT’s (exact same scores although I did better on the math 730, and she did better on the verbal). Why have we had relatively successful academic careers?

    “I attribute much of it to our parents who are immigrants from Nigeria. Our parents view education as the ONLY means of social mobility. Better to become a doctor or professor where you are judged more on your schooling, than go in business or ‘wing it’ without a degree, where white people can more easily discriminate against you. Most of my Asian friends had parents who felt the same way.

    “Black Americans will have to make a cultural shift and begin placing more importance on education. They have to do this even in the formative years, otherwise not even a good school can close the gap. Ebonics doesn’t help either…but that’s another issue”

  • “What about corporal punishment and discipline? Doesn’t the army have a good track record of improving achievement and straightening out youth from all races? And isn’t part of that success due to tough discipline and what is effectively legal corporal punishment?”
  • “In order to increase student engagement in school, it needs to be a privilege instead of a right. Why do classrooms in China with sixty students brim with excitement for learning while classrooms in the U.S. with fewer than half that teem with boredom and disinterest? Simple, in China if your not in school, then you are at work in the fields or factories.”
  • “Now that we have black history month, the poles are agitating for polish history month and the Mexicans want a Mexican history month. There are only so many hours in the school day and school year available for instruction. No wonder American university students don’t know what century the American civil war occurred in. No political constituency exists for teaching American history. In foreign schools which outperform ours, the curriculum is narrow and deep, by that I mean that communication and quantitation skills are developed in depth. It is not diluted with mandates for broad superficial coverage of topics of slight educational importance. This has led to a curriculum here that is overbroad and superficial as a whole. Many schools here are doing something called character education, emphasizing a character trait each week or month of the school term. My parents would have regarded that as presumptuous nonsense. Today we generally think it’s a good idea because we have no confidence in the parents’ ability to teach such things. The same lack of confidence in parents gives cover to the sex,drugs,alcohol, and tobacco ed and perhaps also the the various ethnic history curricula.”
  • “I am amazed that there has been only one mention of one of the most controversial aspects of this problem. Mental ability has been consistently shown to differ amongst different racial groups, just as athletic ability, height, and facial features differ amongst different racial groups. Mental ability as measured by the SAT, LSAT, GMAT, or even by IQ tests, have a very strong correlation with educational achievement. The only know persistent method of increasing IQ lifelong is adoption, regardless of what race the child or the parents are. This means that all the effort and special programs and money thrown at the issue will all fail miserably because they don’t address the underlying issue of IQ differences in different racial groups.”
  • “Anyone who seriously delves into the matter will quickly conclude that of course the real reason that lower IQ ethnic groups (blacks and Hispanics) have lower academic achievement is because on average they tend to be less intelligent. Any honest teacher will tell you that the three main factors that predict academic achievement in a student are 1. IQ, 2. IQ, and 3. IQ; beyond this raw intelligence factor then more minor things like effort and discipline can also be significant…All this talk about how blacks and Hispanics would perform far better academically if only they could attend better schools is ridiculous nonsense! There are countless examples of affluent blacks who attend the same schools as middle class and upper class whites and asians, yet the upscale blacks and Hispanics still show much lower academic achievement compared with their white and Asian classmates. In fact the late U Cal Berkeley sociologist John Ogbu wrote a book about how black students from affluent homes in a suburb of Cleveland (Shaker Heights) still performed much worse than their fellow white students. In most cities if you switched the student body from all black inner city ghetto schools with the student body from the most affluent suburbs and left the teachers in place, I am certain that suddenly all the upscale parents would be talking about bad the suburban schools are and how excellent the inner city schools are. It is all about how smart the students are, not how fancy the building is or how “good” the teachers are. This is really nothing new, the Johns Hopkins sociologist James Coleman proved this during the 1960s in his famous “Coleman Report”.
  • “The problem is not the education gap, it’s the IQ gap. Unfortunately, no amount of social engineering or politically correct doublespeak is going to make that go away.”
  • “To Veritas:

    “There IS one consistent, measurable way to permanently raise IQ: adoption. Adopted children score 5-7 points higher than their racial average on IQ tests.”

Posted by Ajuan Mance

The Best Schools in Life Are Free? April 20, 2008

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There is a truth that high school guidance counselors and college admission officers know. Some veteran teachers and coaches know it too, as do a growing number of college journalists. It’s a truth that seems, on its surface, to contradict common sense, conventional wisdom , and handed-down knowledge regarding the cost of a college education; and yet — strangely enough — it remains hidden from those students and families whom it would benefit the most.

The simple truth to which I refer is this: despite the higher stated cost for tuition, private colleges and universities are the cheaper, more cost-effective choice for students, especially those coming from low- and middle-income families. This was the case even before the recent trend among highly selective institutions toward 1)replacing student loans with grant aid for students at all levels, and 2)eliminating tuition costs altogether for students whose families fall within the middle and lower economic brackets.

A short 5 years ago, well before this trend began, the generous need-based financial aid pacakges offered by many of America’s wealthiest private colleges and universities brought the actual cost to students and their families of — to name one example — a Duke University education below the cost of a UNC – Chapel Hill education, even for in-state students, and especially for students at the lowest income levels.

With 1) the recent elimination of loan aid in favor of grant aid for students at all levels, 2 ) the full remission of college tuition for virtually all middle-income students, and 3) the full funding (tuition, room, and board) for working-class and poor students and their families, selective private institutions have become the option of choice for competitive college applicants needing financial assistance. Ironically, though, the affordability of private colleges and universities relative to their public counterparts remains largely overlooked by many who might seriously wish to consider this option, especially those who hail from some of the less affluent Black, Latino, and Native American communities. 

How much time will pass before this becomes widespread knowledge in low- and middle-income communities of color stands to be seen. So too does the long-term impact upon minority enrollments at selective public institutions, especially in states like California, in which prohibitions against affirmative action limit state universities’ ability to replace minority applicants drawn away from their campuses by the greater affordability of private education with students of color who present with less traditional qualifications.

Here is a list of those colleges and universities that have replaced loan aid with grant aid for students at all income levels: Amherst, Bowdoin, Claremont McKenna, Colby, Columbia, Dartmouth, Davidson, Harvard, Haverford, Pomona, Princeton, Stanford, Swarthmore, Williams Yale.

At the following institutions, parents who make $60,000.00 or less will be required to pay absolutely nothing towards the cost of their children’s college education: Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Brown, Duke. 

For a complete list of private colleges and universities that have eliminated loans, tuition, and/or room and board for portions of their student bodies, take a look at this CHART that appeared on today’s NewYorkTimes.com website.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Black Milestones in Higher Education: Columbia Lions Edition April 18, 2008

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In honor of primary season I’ve decided — at least momentarily — to focus my Black Milestones in Higher Education series on the undergraduate alma maters of the major presidential candidates up for nomination.

I began the series with the U.S. Naval Academy, alma mater of Republican front-runner John McCain. Next up in the series wasWellesley College, the alma mater of Democratic presidential hopeful. I am ending with Columbia University, the undergraduate alma mater of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

History and Overview: Columbia University was founded and began offering classes in 1754, called King’s College at the time, it was founded, “by royal charter of King George II of England” (Source: Columbia University Website). At the time, the enrollment consisted of eight students, all of whom were male. The College was forced to shut down in 1776, as a result of the upheaval of the Revolutionary War in the colonies. When it reopened in 1784, the institution had a new name, Columbia.

In 1983, Columbia became the last of the Ivy League schools to enroll women. Today woman make up a full 49.3 percent of the student body. As of the fall of 2007, University’s undergraduate programs enrolled 7,377 students, of whom 435 were Black.

Black Milestones at Columbia University:

  • 1908 — Pixley ka Ikasa Seme of South African becomes the first black student to earn a B.A. from Columbia. In 1928 he would go on to earn an LLD from Columbia, and would eventually become the founder of the African National Congress (ANC).
  • 1928 — Louis Wilson, Jr. becomes the first African American graduate of Columbia’s architecture school.
  • 1968 — Armed with guns, Black students take over Hamilton Hall to protest both the building of a gym whose entrance policies were considered racist and the University’s involvement in weapon’s reserach.
  • 1969 — M. Moran Weston (CC’30, GSAS’40, GSAS’69) becomes the first African American to serve on the Columbia University Board of Trustees.
  • 1972 — Kellis E. Parker becomes the first full-time African American professor at Columbia Law School.
  • 1976 — The Black Students’ Organization (BSO) is founded.
  • 1983 — The Institute for Research in African American Studies is established at Columbia University.
  • 1999 — The Winter 1999/2000 issue of the Journal of Black in Higher Education reports that Columbia has the higher percentage of Black faculty (7.2 percent) “among the nation’s 27 highest ranked universities.
  • 2004 — On October 26th of this year, Columbia University a plaza on its Morningside campus in the name of it’s first Black trustee, the late Rev. Dr. M. Moran Weston, a graduate of the class of 1930.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Baltimore’s Own ‘Great Debaters’ April 14, 2008

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CEDA National Champions Dayvon Love (R) and Deven Cooper

A hearty Black on Campus congratulations to 22-year-old Deven Cooper and 20-year-old Dayvon Love. On Monday, March 24 these two members of the Towson University debate team, became the first African Americans to with the Cross Examination Debate Association’s National Championship.

A recent article in the San Francisco Examiner explains the risky and innovative approach that they took to victory:

Instead of arguing their chosen topic about Middle East policy, the Baltimore natives argued the need to address exclusion in the debate community, specifically the “racism, sexism and homophobia” that Cooper says pervade debate tournaments.

In another departure from tradition, they used song clips and hip-hop to make their points.

Both competitors were aware that their unique approach was a bold and potentially devastating break with debating tradition. The SF Examiner notes that, “Cooper, en route to another tournament, told The (Baltimore) Sun that he and Love did not expect to win.” 

Click HERE to hear a really wonderful NPR interview with these interesting and talented competitors.

Additional links on this topic:

Townson U. Debaters Take National Championship

Video Footage of the Towson vs. top seeded Kansas

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Black Milestones in Higher Education: Wellesley Blue Edition* April 14, 2008

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*Wellesley College does not have a mascot. Wellesley refers to its athletic teams as “the Blue.”

Wellesley Logo

In honor of primary season I’ve decided — at least momentarily — to focus my Black Milestones in Higher Education series on the undergraduate alma maters of the major presidential candidates up for nomination.

I began the series with the U.S. Naval Academy, alma mater of Republican front-runner John McCain. Next up in the series is Wellesley College, the alma mater of Democratic presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton.

History and Overview: Wellesley College was founded in 1870 by Henry and Pauline Durant. The first students arrived in 1875. Wellesley graduated its first Black student in 1887.

Between 1980 and 1993 Black enrollment at Wellesley remained stable at 6.9% of the student body. Since that time Black student enrollment has slipped. In 1999, Black students comprised only 4.3% of entering first-year students. Today Wellesley enrolls 2,283 students, of whom 132 — or roughly 5.8% — are Black.

Wellesley College is among that handful of highly selective U.S. colleges and universities at which the Black graduation rate is higher than the graduation rate for white students. While the white graduation rate at Wellesley is 91%, the Black graduation rate is an 94%, far above the national average for both Black and white students.


“Long-Term Black Student Enrollment Trends at the Nation’s Highest-Ranked Colleges and Universities.”The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 8 (Summer, 1995), pp. 12-14

“The Progress of Black Student Matriculations at the Nation’s Highest- Ranked Colleges and Universities.”The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 25 (Autumn, 1999), pp. 8-16

Ella Elbert Smith, Class of 1888, and the Second African American Woman to Graduate from Wellesley College

Ella Elbert Smith, class of 1888,

and the second African American woman to graduate from Wellesley College.

Black Milestones at Wellesley College

  • 1887 — Harriet Alleyne Rice becomes the first African American student to graduate from Wellesley.
  • 1888 — Ella Lavinia Smith becomes the second African American student to graduate from Wellesley.
  • 1923 — Harlem Renaissance poet Clarissa M. Scott Delaney graduates Phi Beta Kappa from Wellesley College. At Wellesley, Delaney was a varsity athlete known for her additional talents a singer, and a pianist.
  • 1990 — Adrian Piper joins the faculty of Wellesley College, becoming the first African American female full tenured professor of philosophy in the United States.

Posted by Ajuan Mance