Civil and Human Rights Coalition Dismayed by DeVos Comments on HBCUs

Categories: Press Releases

For Immediate Release
Contact: Shin Inouye, 202.869.0398,

WASHINGTON – Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos mischaracterized the history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs):

“HBCUs were created in response to a racist system of segregation that saw the education of black people as a threat to white supremacy – a belief central to slavery — and that refused to allow black people to participate in the education system available only to white people.  HBCUs continue to play an important role in our education system. 

There is no shortage of academic literature on this subject, including the seminal work, Education of Blacks in the South: 1860-1935, by noted historian James Anderson.  I would advise Secretary DeVos to check the facts, study the history, and refrain from suggesting that Jim Crow was about choice for anybody besides segregationist politicians. 

Despite unacceptable remnants of slavery and segregation in the nation, through the determination of black communities and actions by the federal government, we have seen improvement.  If we are to continue the progress, we need leaders who understand and comprehend our nation’s history, and enforce our civil rights laws.”

Wade Henderson is the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit