UNCF President: Statement on Murder of George Floyd and Renewed Anti-Black Violence
In the final days of World War II, Black college presidents Mary McCloud Bethune and Frederick Douglass Patterson led the formation of UNCF (United Negro College Fund). They believed that education is a human right and that the Black men and women who had fought fascism abroad would have to return to America to fight against domestic racism and for full citizenship for themselves, for their families and for the entire Black community. The UNCF founders knew that Black colleges would be, as ever they have been, the academic foundries to mold the new generations of leaders to galvanize and inspire Black America and our allies to fight against racism and for justice, equality and opportunity.
From UNCF’s beginnings, we have known that the American unalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” do not apply to Black Americans. The education our Black colleges provide is at its foundation an unequivocal affirmation of Black humanity and value. Black college educations must today continue to be for our students their preparation for the ongoing struggle to ensure their full citizenship rights and privileges, their essential dignity and their universal human rights.
Today, we at UNCF mourn the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. They are now among a long list of martyrs. All are victims of virulent anti-Black violence committed by uniformed police and self-appointed civilian vigilantes alike, who have systemically and systematically devalued Black humanity and destroyed Black lives, too often with impunity and without legal consequence. At UNCF, we stand shoulder to shoulder with those who affirm that “Black lives matter.” We, too, demand justice and accountability.
The work we do in behalf of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and our students is vital work and, at its core, is inextricably intertwined with the ongoing Black struggle for our full citizenship rights, privileges and protections. Further, we affirm and declare that HBCUs are, like our Black churches, cornerstone institutions in the Black community. Like the lives of Black men and women, our HBCUs are constantly undervalued, disparaged, under assault, and put at risk. And just as we unequivocally declare that “Black lives matter”, so too we affirm that HBCUs’ continued existence matters and Black college students’ abilities and opportunities to attend their chosen HBCUs matter.
Every day for 76 years, UNCF has affirmed the essential value, importance and impact of our HBCUs, because for over 150 years these institutions have labored to educate Black students, to prepare them for meaningful careers, for active citizenship and for leadership within and in behalf of the Black community. In these times of catastrophe and daily crisis, we must continue to educate our students for the challenges ahead. As we prepare for the future, we must ensure that our HBCUs are not merely sustained but now, more than ever before, are strengthened for the work ahead.