While the HBCU, as defined by the 1965 Higher Education Act, is a by-product of the superstructure and is thusly grounded upon and legitimated by what bell hooks terms “the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy,” therefore functioning as institutionalized spaces for constructing and maintaining hegemony, HBCUs, explains Eddie S. Glaude Jr. in his 2016 Democracy in Black, are “institutions that both cultivated their (Black folks') civic capacities and served as a space to transmit values that opposed the value gap” (p. 125). In other words, Black folks have had to create “safe spaces” like the HBCU, to exist in their full humanity within an oppressive America whose white citizens devalued their being, and therefore, their American citizenship. Although the HBCU is legitimated by the hegemony, the HBCU, I argue, remains a space where the democracy America has yet to realize can be learned and practiced, especially if teachers, particularly within first-year composition programs, employ counterhegemonic curriculums and practices like the AfriWomanist approach to teaching I offer here.
Thank you to Dr. Kathy Hytten, of the University of North Carolina Greensboro, whose Race, Equity, and Education course informed and inspirited my thinking about democracy. Her contributions to this essay cannot go unmentioned.
Bryant, K.N. (2021), "
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