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Melissa Wooten ‘Stigmatizing an Institutional Space: How Black Colleges Became a Problem’

  • Furcolo W016 North Pleasant Street Amherst, MA United States (map)

A quarter of black Americans earn college degrees from black colleges. Martin Luther King, Jr., Toni Morrison, Jesse Jackson, and Spike Lee are but a few of the influential Americans that have graduated from black colleges. Yet, and still, questions about the necessity of black colleges abound. Despite their many achievements, black colleges struggle to attain the notoriety and prestige that is readily bestowed upon predominantly white colleges of lesser historic and contemporary importance. Why is this so? For much of America's history, educational and social policy was explicitly designed to limit black colleges' organizational development. This was no more evident than in the mid-twentieth century when instead of promoting policies intended to remedy the negative impact of Jim Crow on black colleges, political support went to policies that cast black colleges as obstacles to racially integrating American higher education. As an alternative to questioning the continued relevance of these schools, the institutional theory literature is used to investigate how race and racism precludes  black colleges from acquiring the resources and respect worthy of organizations that have contributed immeasurably to the American economic, political, and social landscape.