As Vice President Kamala Harris was sworn in on Wednesday as the 49th vice president of the United States, Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the country — and those in Louisiana — celebrated her accomplishment as their own and as a demonstration of the value of those campuses. Vice President Harris graduated from Howard University in 1986.
“The inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris presents yet another opportunity to celebrate democracy in America,” Southern University System President-Chancellor Ray L. Belton said by phone Wednesday. “Vice President Harris’ new role in serving this great nation is a testament to something we have known for more than a century: HBCUs prepare students to change the world.”
Harris, who is of Black and South Asian descent, became the first woman to serve as vice president after she was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Belton said Harris’ inauguration day was exciting in part because students and graduates of HBCUs got to see a graduate of such a school taking center stage “as a history-maker in a number of significant ways.”
Xavier University in New Orleans and Grambling State University in Lincoln Parish both tweeted out praise for the new president and vice president and emphasized Harris’ past as a student and graduate of an HBCU.
Congratulations to the Newly Elected President of the United States, @JoeBiden and the Newly Elected first African American, Asian, and Woman Vice President, #HBCUGrad @KamalaHarris from all of us at Xavier! #InaugurationDay pic.twitter.com/BeQ9VdMFnd
— Xavier Univ. of LA (@XULA1925) January 21, 2021
The bands from Grambling and archrival Southern both participated in a live streamed celebration Tuesday night that highlighted many of the country’s most notable HBCU graduates, including Cedric Richmond (Morehouse College) who just resigned from Congress to work for the Biden administration, Stacey Abrams (Spelman College), former gubernatorial candidate in Georgia whose organization “Fair Fight” has been credited with turning that state blue, and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (South Carolina State University).
Of his band’s participation, Grambling President Rick Gallot said in a statement, “We are proud that they will be representing the institution for the inauguration of the first HBCU graduate to serve as Vice President of the United States of America.”
Southern University at New Orleans Chancellor James Ammons told New Orleans televisions station WDSU Wednesday that despite HBCUs making up only three percent of colleges and universities across the country, those historically Black campuses — many of which are underfunded — “outstanding faculty who instill the values of academic excellence.”
Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough said on that same news segment that he’s noticed a recent boost in donations to campuses like his, and “2020 will be the largest year of HBCU philanthropy ever.”
As part of a $4.1 billion philanthropic outpouring at the end of last year, MacKenzie Scott, author and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, gave $260 million to Historically Black campuses, including $5 million to Dillard.
Kimbrough told the news station that people are looking at such campuses to pay lip service to diversity. Instead, he said, “People are saying, ‘There’s real talent at these institutions.’”