Since taking office, President Donald Trump has pledged “unwavering support” for the critical educational missions of historically black colleges and universities, invited leaders of those institutions to the White House and even dispatched his education secretary to deliver her first commencement address of graduation season at one of the schools.
The moves, by a president who won just 8 percent of the black vote in November, have surprised and pleased some African-American educators, who say Trump already has outpaced the steps taken by previous administrations, including that of the nation’s first black president.
While some leaders and groups associated with black colleges have welcomed the young administration’s overtures, others, notably students, remain wary of Trump and assail the White House as tone-deaf and insensitive. Those views were on display this month when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos delivered the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla. As DeVos began to speak, students booed and turned their backs on her.
Following his inauguration, Trump’s most overt outreach to African-Americans has been his efforts to woo students and leaders of black colleges that were founded in the years after the Civil War and today consist of 101 public and private schools nationwide.
“For [President] Obama, people expected him to come in and fix everything–especially for black people. … But he never campaigned strongly for HBCUs,” said Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University in New Orleans, using the common abbreviation for the schools.