Kamala Harris

Senators Harris, Graham push legislation to preserve HBCUs

HBCU

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reintroduced a bill to reauthorize the Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) Historic Preservation Program for fiscal years 2019 to 2025. Across more than 100 HBCUs around the country, historic buildings and sites—some more than 100 years old—have deteriorated over time and are at risk of being permanently lost if they are not preserved and protected.

The bill would authorize funding for grants to restore these historic buildings and sites, as well as improve accessibility on many HBCU campuses. The bill is a Senate companion of House legislation introduced by U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC).

“During my time as a student at Howard University, I was proud and humbled to walk the same hallways as historic figures like Thurgood Marshall, Zora Neale Hurston, and Shirley Franklin,” said Harris. “The history represented at Howard and across every other HBCU imbues special meaning on each campus and reminds students that they can come as they are and leave as the person they aspire to be. I’m proud to introduce this legislation to preserve and improve HBCUs around the country for our future generations.”

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina speaking at the Iowa Republican Party’s 2015 Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Gage Skidmore/File photo/Wikimedia Commons

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played a vital role in American higher education,” said Graham. “With their long, rich history, HBCUs have helped many students achieve their full potential. I’m pleased to join this bipartisan effort to strengthen these fine institutions and the Americans who have benefitted from the important role played by HBCU’s.”

“I welcome and fully support this effort to continue our stewardship to preserve these important pieces of American history, and as I have for the last several Congresses, I am introducing companion legislation in the House,” said Clyburn.

Supporters of the legislation include The United Negro College Fund, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“Our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are one of the most important vehicles for higher education and upward mobility in America,” said Dr. Harry L. Williams, president & CEO, Thurgood Marshall College Fund. “Without them, we would have no Thurgood Marshall, Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Jordan or Chadwick Boseman. I commend Senator Harris and the bipartisan group of Senate co-sponsors for working to ensure that the rich legacy of our nation’s HBCU’s are preserved through the reauthorization of the HBCU Historic Preservation legislation.”

U. S, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, here attending and speaking at a Democratic Faith Working Group event in May of 2018, has a companion bill in the House of Representatives comparable to one that was introduced by Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Lindsay Graham, which would preserve sites and buildings at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Photo courtesy of James Clyburn

In addition to Senators Harris and Graham, co-sponsors of the bill include Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Doug Jones (D-AL).

“The Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Historic Preservation Fund remains a vital program for HBCUs and a program that UNCF has historically championed,” said Lodriguez Murray, UNCF vice president for Public Policy and Government Affairs. “UNCF firmly believes in the value added to HBCUs who are able to receive financial assistance to preserve the historic structures on their campuses. Against substantial odds, HBCUs have played a unique role in transforming the landscape of higher education in the United States and continue to prepare the African American professional and civic leaders needed by communities, employers and the nation. UNCF offers its full support of this piece of legislation and hope to see this bill signed into law.”

Brent Leggs, director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, also voiced his enthusiasm over the proposed legislation.

“From Morehouse College in Atlanta to Howard University right here in Washington, DC, Historically Black Colleges and Universities reflect the determination of generations of Black Americans to receive a quality education, even in the face of profound discrimination,” Leggs said. “We thank Senator Harris and Representative Clyburn for their dedication to preserving these testaments to African American achievement, activism and the Black educational experience, and reauthorizing the HBCU Historic Preservation Program to ensure that the historic buildings on HBCU campuses will continue to inspire and educate future generations.”

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