"Black School, White State"
Harden, Margaret, Education - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Pusser, Brian, Leadership, Foundations & Policy, University of Virginia
Since their founding Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have and continue to face recurrent crises of legitimacy, episodes or periods in which the merits of their very existence are questioned or undermined. These challenges have been well documented and undertheorized. The broader scholarship in higher education on HBCUs has tended to focus on individuals, while few researchers have covered the larger systemic or structural issues. This study uses process tracing to situate the history of Virginia State University (VSU), a public HBCU in Virginia, within an explicitly political framework. It maps the role of the state and civil society in the origin and evolution of the institution, with particular attention to issues of legitimacy and power, and thus racism.
This study found that political contest concomitant with an evolving state were salient explanations for VSU’s transformations and challenges over time. Further, I argue that the contest, the evolution of the state, and VSU’s transformation over time were structured by race and by the placement of individuals into racialized categories. Although this study is focused on one higher education institution, it seeks to more broadly illuminate issues of power, the role of the state and the civil society in higher education, and the impact of the US system of higher education on racial and socioeconomic disparities, as well as individual and collective agency and resistance on the part of Black people.
PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Political Contest, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, HBCUs, the state and civil society, history of black education, history of higher education, Virginia State University
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