The campuses of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) can provide a lens to examine the difficulty that African-Americans went through to receive education in US history—and their building are crumbling.
On Tuesday, Rep. James Clyburn, D-SC, advocated to extend the Historic Preservation fund through 2024 to preserve and repair structures on HBCUs across the nation. The bill passed a vote and moves on to the Senate. Last year the same bill passed the House but was not taken up by the Senate so funds were not distributed to the institutions.
“The structures on these campuses across the country are living testaments to African american history and deserve to be stabilized and restored,” Clyburn said on the House floor.
Clyburn’s bill will continue funding the Historic Preservation Program for HBCUs. The funding was originally proposed in 1998 as part of a Congressional Black Caucus request to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to help preserve an estimated $755 million in repairs to 712 historic sites on historically black colleges and universities.
If signed, the bill authorizes $10 million to preserve buildings on campuses that are often over 100 years old. According to Clyburn, the funds that expire in 2017 have helped preserve nearly 60 HBCU campuses across 20 states, but he expressed concern many buildings remain in danger. Previous versions of this bill were used to repair the Chappelle Auditorium and Arnett Hall at Allen University.
Prominent African-American leaders like Booker T. Washington, W.EB. Dubois, Martin Luther King Jr. and several U.S. congressmen were educated at HBCUs and Clyburn believes their legacy is critical to American culture.
“Their legacy is seen in graduates whose achievements adorn the pages of American history,” Clyburn said.
There are eight HBCUs in South Carolina, seven of which are in Clyburn’s district.