George W. McLaurin was born exactly 132 years ago on September 16, 1887. He’s the Black man who made history when he won a landmark civil rights lawsuit against the University of Oklahoma (UO).
He’s also the man whose case proves why Blacks should attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
In 1948, McLaurin was denied admission into UO to pursue his Ph.D. in education because of a state law that made it a crime for Blacks to attend any school with whites. After successfully challenging that law in federal district court, he was admitted into the university over its strong objection. And the officials there decided to humiliate him by segregating and isolating him not only in all classes by putting him in anterooms with a separate desk but also by segregating and isolating him in the library, in the cafeteria, in the restrooms, and at sporting events. Think about that level of suffocating humiliation for a minute.
He then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court and on June 5, 1960 won, thereby forcing Oklahoma to end discrimination, segregation, and isolation statewide in all of its schools, colleges, and universities.
The fact that McLaurin was 61-years-old when he applied to UO in 1948, the fact that he held a Master’s degree, and the fact that he was a retired college professor who had taught for 33 years at Oklahoma’s only HBCU, Langston University, didn’t matter to those racists. They considered him to be nothing more than an educated n-----r.
Many Black students who attend white colleges and universities today are knowing or unknowing victims in an abusive relationship with those schools even though the historical (and modern day) record clearly exposes that abuse. Education for Blacks had been outlawed in all schools from kindergarten through college since slavery became law of the land in 1619. Speaking of law, there was legislation throughout the country similar to a 1740 South Carolina law that proclaimed “(It) shall be unlawful” for “all… slaves or free Negroes…” to be taught “reading or writing. And any… (judges)… may… direct… any officers… to inflict corporal punishment” on the educated slaves or free Negroes “not exceeding 20 lashes.”
That abuse continued with the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott ruling that Blacks have no rights (educational or otherwise) that whites are bound to respect and its 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that Jim Crow is acceptable based on the “separate is equal” fallacy.
And if you think that academic abuse ended with the overruling of the Plessy case by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case known as Brown I, consider this: Although the court ruled that educational Jim Crow is outlawed because “separate but equal is unconstitutional,” that decision in reality wasn’t worth the paper it was written on since most states ignored it because the feds didn’t enforce it. Then came the vague 1955 Brown II “all deliberate speed” decision. But that moved just as slowly. Then came the tardy 1978 Brown III (which I describe as the) “we really mean it this time” decision. But steps toward implementing that didn’t begin until just two decades ago in 1998. However, it still hasn’t been fully implemented.
Even worse, just twelve years ago in the Community Schools v. Seattle School District case, Chief Justice John Roberts in 2007 tried to turn Brown’s “separate but equal is unconstitutional” decision on its head by claiming that historic ruling meant the exact opposite of what the Justices unanimously said in 1954.
It gets worse. Two years ago, the fake so-called president took steps to redirect the resources of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division toward suing the (few good) white colleges and universities that promote affirmative action. The orange anti-Black racist in the White House considers that to be “reverse discrimination.” But you might say he’s the exception because he’s a KKK/David Duke-endorsed bigot. But you must remember that it ain’t just him. Did you forget that he received 63 million votes? Did you forget that the Republican-controlled Senate and House are filled with his racist lapdogs? Those voters and those Senators and those Congresspersons are him and he is them. Together, they are white America. And white America has never wanted us in their schools, colleges, or universities.
White America has abused us each time we try to build a relationship with it. But we keep coming back like the wife who says her husband didn’t really mean it when he repeatedly blackened her eye, busted her lip, or slapped her face.
Blacks need to finally get a “Protection From Abuse” order- but not one issued by a judge. Instead, we need to issue one to ourselves. We need to “Leave that zero and get us a hero.” And that hero is HBCUs because, although HBCUs constitute only three percent of all colleges and universities in this country, they produce the following:
80 percent of Black judges
50 percent of Black lawyers
50 percent of Black professors
40 percent of Black engineers
40 percent of Black Congresspersons
30 percent of Blacks with Bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields
22 percent of Blacks with Bachelor’s degrees in all fields
13 percent of Black CEOs
HBCUs are the top 21 producers of Blacks who attain a Ph.D
By the way, have you heard the great news about the oldest HBCU in America- Cheyney University? As reported in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star newspaper on September 3, “One of the most stunning reversals in higher education is happening right now in Pennsylvania. And it could be a blueprint for other struggling universities and colleges both here and across the nation.... From... [a]... $19 million deficit back in 2015... [Cheyney now has] a $2.1 million surplus.... In addition to cutting $9 million in expenditures... [Cheyney] started a successful fundraising campaign led by university alumni. It raised over $4.4 million as of June 30, which exceeded its goal by $400,000. Moreover, students in Cheyney’s Keystone Honors Academy and Bond-Hill Scholarship Program can attend both undergraduate and graduate school absolutely free of charge.
Say Happy 132nd Birthday to Mr. McLaurin while you’re telling your Black sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, nephews, and nieces to attend an HBCU, preferably Cheyney University!