After receiving a firestorm of criticism over the claim that historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are an example of “school choice,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos tried to retrocede her statement in a series of tweets on Tuesday.
The controversy began earlier this week when the Department of Education released a statement praising HBCUs as “pioneers when it comes to school choice.” Shortly thereafter, critics and social media users accused the Republican billionaire of whitewashing the true legacy of HBCUs. In actuality, HBCUs were established as a direct result of American racism and school segregation, which barred black students from attending schools with whites. As a result, African Americans were forced to create alternative schools as their only choice for decades.
Ironically, DeVos released the controversial statement during the BLACK ENTERPRISE’s BE Smart HBCU Summit, which was held at Morgan State University on Feb. 27-28. In response, Morgan State University President, Dr. David Wilson, told BLACK ENTERPRISE that DeVos’ comments were an “unfortunate choice of words, expressed very inartfully.”
Others expressed disgrace for the comments on Twitter:
Where in the statement does DeVos say anything about injustice? She describes HBCUs as an example of school choice. Plot twist: it's not https://t.co/11vZBfZCA3— Bree Newsome (@BreeNewsome) February 28, 2017
Later on Tuesday, DeVos seemed to backpedal on her original gaffe in a series of tweets, acknowledging that HBCUs were not founded to simply give black students more choices.
#HBCUs remain at the forefront of opening doors that had previously been closed to so many.— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) February 28, 2017
Providing an alternative option to students denied the right to attend a quality school is the legacy of #HBCUs.— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) February 28, 2017
But your history was born not out of mere choice, but out of necessity, in the face of racism, and in the aftermath of the Civil War.— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) February 28, 2017
DeVos also released a statement at a luncheon, which was held for school presidents at the Library of Congress.
“Bucking that status quo, and providing an alternative option to students denied the right to attend a quality school is the legacy of HBCUs,” she said, according to The New York Times. “But, your history was born, not out of mere choice, but out of necessity, in the face of racism and in the aftermath of the Civil War.”
She added that HBCU’s “made higher education accessible to students who otherwise would have been denied the opportunity.”