Black president = no love for all-male black institution?


Since his inauguration, President Barack Obama has been the commencement speaker   at both Notre Dame and Arizona State University. Many men of Morehouse awaited the day the nation’s first Black president would grace century campus, home of the nation’s  only all-male black institution, for an historic moment that would forever reside in American and Morehouse College history.

Sadly that reverie was slightly tainted as news of Obama speaking at Hampton University’s spring graduation surfaced. Hampton, really? Of all HBCUs to visit for the first time, Obama chose Hampton, consistently ranked under Morehouse in both US News’ “Best Colleges 2010: HBCUs Ranking” and Black Enterprise’s “Top 50 Colleges for Black Students.”

Obama visiting an HBCU, to some, is like publicly endorsing the college or university’s commitment to continuing the success of Black higher learning. Essentially, he is a deciding factor in who is deemed the best of the best.

One can easily draw significant parallels between America’s first Black president and Morehouse College, America’s only all-male Black institution. The election of Obama has redefined the expectations of the Black community and, in turn, presented the Black male with a sense of “no excuses,” forever altering his perception of limitations or lack thereof. Despite the aforementioned correlation Obama, or at least his administration, has disappointingly failed to acknowledge Morehouse for its contribution and one-of-a-

kind distinction in the educational sector.

Morehouse, the top feeder of Black male undergraduates, has been redefining the “Black male” image for the past 14 decades. Obama has openly expressed his concern for the national education gap among Black males, so why wouldn’t he show recognition to the institution that’s been combating such racial disparities long before there was a Black president?

Let’s not forget Obama’s analogous image to Morehouse alumnus Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. How can one pay homage and evoke the ideals of the great King without recognizing his alma mater?

Some pose the argument that Obama’s decision to speak at Hampton is more political than personal, given William Harvey, president of Hampton, is the White House’s newly appointed chairman for the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. If this is so, some things never change in the political sphere: strictly politics.

Not only did Obama choose Hampton’s president as chairman of the board, but he also placed on the board Beverly Tatum, president of the all-female HBCU Spelman College. Call it selfish or presumptuous, but how is there a board of advisors over HBCUs without the leading institution for Black males? Black men are graduating at a much lower rate than their female counterparts, so wouldn’t a sizable emphasis be placed on the plight of the Black male? There’s no better expertise on Black college men than from a representative of the illustrious, yet overlooked, Morehouse.

The same Morehouse that gathered buses in route to Washington to campaign for “change.” The same Morehouse where young Black males gathered with Morehouse President Robert M. Franklin Jr. on election night and were compelled to tears as they witnessed history in the making. That scene confirmed that the ideals exuded in the psyche of the Morehouse man were no longer to be in vain, and that finally a change had come.

Obama coming to Morehouse is more than just a sense of validation; it would be a prophetic confirmation that for the post-modern Black male, specifically a Man of Morehouse, one can excel above all adversities and even someday walk the White House lawn as president of the United States.

Gerren K. Gaynor

Opinions Editor

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16 Discussion to this post

  1. Howard University Student says:

    I actually agree with you. Picking Hampton, which has its roots as a trade school, and picking a HBCU with a tradition rooted in the academy, like Fisk, Howard and Morehouse, seems to speak volumes about where the President’s priorities are. However, I will say that the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs is a Morehouse Man.

  2. Oh Well says:

    Sounds like you dudes need to speak with your alum, Leonard Haynes and ask what’s going on. Howard University Student- what does a school’s history in trade have to do with anything? Not all blacks could afford to attend other institutions of higher learning. It is apparent Obama saw it that way; otherwise he may have selected one of the schools you mentioned. Was politics involved? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, he will be going to a former trade school in Virginia to speak in May. Guys you have your homework cut out for next year. So step up your political game too.

  3. Hmmm says:

    The author of this article asks “Call it selfish or presumptuous, but how is there a board of advisors over HBCUs without the leading institution for Black males?”. The author loses credibility by not acknowledging the fact that their own alum is the Executive Director of the Whitehouse Initiatives on HBCUs. I think it would be more worthwhile to address this egregious omission from the article rather that speculating on politics, Hampton and other members of Obama’s Board of Trustees. If we are to follow the author’s logic, then I suppose President Obama will be speaking at Spelman next year. Afterall, Beverly Tatum is on that Board too.

  4. Morehouse Student says:

    If you check the list, there’s no representation from Morehouse, which is what the author was arguing. Not about Lenoard Haynes who does not sit on that board of new appointees.

  5. Hmmm says:

    I think we all get that. But Leonard Haynes is the Executive Director of the Initiative for HBCUs. Are you saying that this role coupled with his proximity to President Obama do not allow him to at least influence Obama to speak at Morehouse for commencement? Please clarify. thanks

  6. Morehouse Student says:

    t very much possibly could. Has he? That we do not know. I still don’t think that suffices enough considering presidents of both Hampton and Spelman College were chosen over the president, or at least former president of Morehouse. No one is right or wrong in this argument however, both hold legitimate weight.

  7. Hmmm says:

    Morehouse student–thanks for the clarification and thank you for posting that link. By the way– if you check the link you sent and scroll down then read the bios of who’s on the list, there’s a Morehouse alum on that darn board. His name is Kenneth Tolson. So contrary to what you wrote in your first post, there is representation from Morehouse. So at a minimum, this article should be corrected to reflect this fact.

  8. Hmmm says:

    Now that I’ve had some fun with this– About me– I’m a Hampton (09) grad and my girlfriend (Spelman ’11) told me about this little piece. I wanted to point out how absurd it is to argue Morehouse has no representation with Obama, when in fact Morehouse probably has more than most other HBCUs. Since the author didn’t say it, I wanted to educate you on two of your own alums, and those are just two that I read about (one thanks to Morehouse student’s link). About those college rankings, it is naive to think Obama makes his decision on where to speak simply basked on how the school is ranked or it’s historical “roots”. If that is the case, you guys are probably shyting a brick that Michelle Obama is speaking at lesser ranked Arkansas Pine Bluff for commencement. Since graduating HU, I haven’t kept up with rankings, but I am guessing both Hampton and Morehouse are among top 10, if not top 5 HBCUs. So let’s not pretend Morehouse is #1 and Hampton is some middle or bottom feeder. The numbers are probably close enough that the author is basically arguing over crumbs on a table. But to be fair, I would have guessed Obama would have chosen Morehouse over Hampton given what Morehouse represents to black males coupled with the significance of Obama’s presidency to the country. I have heard rumors as to how Hampton got Obama, but they all speak to Harvey’s political muscle and business savviness. The bottom line is this– if your president is not out there shaking the trees and putting your school on blast–to the right people–, you aint gonna get the type of speaker you probably feel you’re entitled to having. Good luck with locking in a speaker. HBCU love.

  9. Morehouse says:

    HBCU love right back at you

  10. Out of the arguably 117 HBCU’s in the United States, the men of Morehouse were the only ones who enjoyed the distinction of having the CNN networks’ TV cameras on campus, poised for the reaction when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama’s votes were being tallied on election night. I’m not saying that this is the reason he opted for another speaking opportunity, but the very embarassing display that the Morehouse students put on that night, again on national television, once Obama’s win was announced is a visual that I and many HBCU alumni I know of who witnessed it, will never forget. Young men lost all dignity. They were screaming, jumping up and down in front of the reporter en masse and throwing up Morehouse hand signs that of a surety looked like gang signs to a novice. It was like they forgot what and who they represent as African Americans, and as black male youth at a time when the ultimate living image of black men today needed for them to project the same poise and dignity that he does. Again, I’m not saying that that’s necessarily the reason, I’m just saying. HBCU love.

  11. JG says:

    The personal attacks on the writer and the Men of Morehouse are unwarranted. Sure they are feeling snubbed. Sure they showed exuberance at the time of the election of the nation’s first black president, as did most black Democrats. There was nothing embarrassing or inappropriate about their expressions of jubilation whether on CNN or in private. Morehouse is an outstanding institution and is doing a superb job of educating black men. If the HBCU rankings were adjusted for male graduation rates, Morehouse would probably share the number one HBCU spot with Spelman College. Why wouldn’t the President speak at Morehouse? Doesn’t he pay enough homage to the Ivy League institutions through his cabinet appointments?

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  16. fhsmct says:

    At that time, was not our current President the head of the White House Initiative on HBCUs?

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