Bluefield State College in Bluefield is 90% white, and its alumni association is all black but it still gets federal money as a HBCU…
Via NPR reports:
In 1954, just a few years after Bluefield State earned full accreditation, the Supreme Court declared segregation illegal in Brown v. Board of Education, reshaping the landscape of America’s schooling. Suddenly black students had more educational options to choose from, in theory anyway. And black colleges and universities like Bluefield State began having to compete with better-funded predominantly white schools for top black students.
At the same time, new technology was making mining jobs obsolete, and many black folks started leaving the state, heading North to go work in the factories. White veterans started coming back to West Virginia after fighting in Korea. And with the government footing their tuition costs through the G.I. Bill, the state’s inexpensive black schools — the other was West Virginia State University — started looking more and more attractive to white students.
“We had an out-migration of students of color because of Brown v. Board of Ed,” said Jim Nelson, a spokesman for the school, “at roughly the same time that we had an in-migration of largely Caucasian students wanting to use their G.I. Bill benefits. So that’s what, as much as anything, that’s what flipped the complexion of the school.
Most of the current students we spoke to knew about the school’s status as a historically black college, but treated it like a bit of trivia. The players on the women’s basketball team, who were planting seeds for a homecoming event, joked casually about there not being step shows or marching bands or black fraternities and sororities.
If there was much anxiety about race and history among Bluefield State’s current students, though, it was pretty hard to tell. At the homecoming dance the night before the Founder’s Day luncheon, black students and white students were all together doing the “Cha Cha Slide” and the “Cupid Shuffle.” The hundred or so folks getting it in on the dance floor looked to be traditionally college-aged kids. And these kids were, essentially, the student life of the campus. The all-white homecoming court did the “Wobble” next to a clique of black women’s basketball players, who somehow managed to be even taller in heels. Jerry Perdue, a gregarious white guy and the college’s student government president, gushed over last year’s Miss Bluefield State, Danielle Haynes, a black science and pharmaceutical major who had since graduated. Her mother had been Miss Bluefield State back in the day, too.
“I get it, we love the history here and it’s so amazing to hear about it,” Haynes told us later. “But my generation — we’re not so much hardened by the fact that we don’t look like an HBCU. We just love our school for what it is. [The alumni] said they found comfort here and found family here, and I did too. And it doesn’t look exactly the same. But I did too.”
Foundational questions are not addressed. Why is it that Black people don’t control their own institutions financially and politically? Do Black people have a cultural and historical legacy that they are obligated to preserve through their own educational institutions? How far from being enslaved are you when you don’t control any of the institutions that meet your essential human needs? What obligation does this nation have to the restoration of Black humanity outside of the context of being black Europeans? What obligation do Black people / institutions have to looking back beyond 1619 for our identity as human beings?