The following was forwarded to me by a friend. I’ve shared it with others, including many of the people I am honored to mentor, and today I was inspired by one of my mentors to post it again. It is attributed to David Evans, a beloved African American senior admissions officer at Harvard. Evans was among the higher education professionals who contributed their expertise to the article “Cracking the College Admissions Code” in the September 2008 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.
Evans’ missive is the first thing I’ve ever read that puts into perspective what we have to gain by encouraging, supporting and mentoring each other–and what is at stake if we choose not to. It seems also particularly poignant in light of Barack Obama’s historic position as our President-elect, and our excited anticipation of his official inauguration as the 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009. It is in the spirit of the Black Enterprise mission that I am sharing it with you, and I encourage you to share it with others. Let it be a reminder to us that, no matter what level we are on, we must never forget our obligation to lift as we climb.
50 EDUCATED AFRICAN AMERICANS
From David L. Evans, Harvard University
For the sake of historical perspective, I have occasionally shared some inspirational tidbits with African American undergraduates at Harvard and other persons (as yourself) whom I consider sensitive to same. The following tidbits are my reflections on a speech by a visitor to my school in rural Arkansas when I was in seventh or eighth grade.
Our visitor revealed some statistics about Black History that were awe-inspiring and quite relevant to the rôle of educated African Americans today. He revealed to us that there were probably no more than fifty African Americans with college degrees in the United States when the Civil War ended. Moreover, there were almost five million newly-freed slaves who were, for all practical purposes, illiterate. Notwithstanding these overwhelming odds, this handful of educated men and women (and their descendants) worked a miracle over the seventy years following the War and “saved a race.” Frankly, they “saved a nation” because the United States could not have withstood the economic and political burden of more than 4,000,000 nomadic, unskilled black refugees.
With the help of Northern missionaries, sympathetic Southern whites and philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Julius Rosenwald, they founded more than 200 historically black colleges and thousands of schools during that period. This was accomplished in the face of monstrous brutality including widespread lynching. I’ve read that