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Into the Future of HBCUs

Howard University just got its biggest donation in campus history. Now what?

About this episode:

For more than 150 years, Howard University in Washington, D.C., has graduated high-profile alumni like former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, authors Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison, and rapper Sean Combs. Like many Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in recent years, Howard has faced dwindling enrollment and financial uncertainty. But renewed calls for social justice might be shifting that.

Last week, Mackenzie Scott, a philanthropist and ex-wife to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, announced she was donating $1.7 billion dollars to charitable causes, with tens of millions of dollars going to six prominent HBCUs. Howard University is one of them. It received $40 million. It is the largest gift from a single donor in the school’s entire 153 history.

Dr. Wayne Frederick, President of Howard University and an alum himself, believes that HBCUs, founded before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to serve primarily Black students, are in a unique position to respond to this historic moment. Host Trymaine Lee talks with Frederick about the financial uncertainty of running an HBCU and how the Scott gift will have an impact, how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting life on campus, and what the future may hold for all HBCUs, including Howard.

Find the transcript here.

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