This Protest Changed HBCU Leadership Forever

George Washington Carver circa 1902
Leslie Taylor-Grover
September 8, 2020

The students of Fisk University, an HBCU in Nashville, were fed up. First came the curfews. Then the mandates that the HBCU students sing Negro spirituals at events for white people. Now, police had swarmed the men’s dormitory, shooting and beating students. What led to this?

Many HBCUs had white presidents in their early years, and Fisk University was no exception. Because our people were considered “too savage” to educate ourselves and run our own universities, white men were given free rein of our campuses. What happened at Fisk?

The president mandated students obey Jim Crow laws and remain subservient to whites. Outraged, the students protested, refusing to bow to Jim Crow. The racist President retaliated.

He used the Nashville police to brutalize the so-called “uppity” students. The police destroyed the men’s dormitory. Random students were charged with felonies and faced long jail sentences. But the conflict wasn’t over.

The Black community came together, protected the students, and removed the racist university president! Inspired, Howard also ditched their racist white president.

Soon, HBCUs agitated to get Black presidents, ending the regime of whites seeking to keep our people subordinate. We must never let anyone steal our agency. We do not need to white people to educate or control us in order to thrive!

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