White House Delays HBCU Conference

The White House said Friday it would delay an annual conference for historically black colleges and universities that had been scheduled for mid-September.

Congressional Democrats and multiple organizations representing HBCUs have called in recent weeks for the event to be delayed until after the White House names the executive director of its HBCU Initiative. They also called for more action related to Trump's March executive order on historically black colleges, such as "developing a meaningful plan of action with concrete commitments to invest in and advance HBCUs," as the United Negro College Fund said in its letter to the administration.

While the conference is postponed, the White House said it would instead meet with a small number of HBCU leaders and students on strategic issues.

Johnny C. Taylor Jr., president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Foundation, praised the decision to postpone the event.

"TMCF will continue our substantive and positive working relationship with the entire Trump administration," he said.

Omarosa Manigault-Newman, director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison, had insisted in response to calls for a delay last month that the conference would go ahead as planned. She also promised that the White House would name an executive director for the HBCU Initiative as well as members of a board of advisers.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017
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White House Delays HBCU Conference

Historians Weigh In on Confederate Monuments

Historians have been called upon heavily to make sense of the political present via their knowledge of the past. And this week, the American Historical Association released a statement addressing the ongoing debate over what to do with Confederate monuments.

“Nearly all monuments to the Confederacy and its leaders were erected without anything resembling a democratic process,” the statement says. “Regardless of their representation in the actual population in any given constituency, African-Americans had no voice and no opportunity to raise questions about the purposes or likely impact of the honor accorded to the builders of the Confederate States of America.” The AHA, it says, “recommends that it’s time to reconsider these decisions.”

At the same time, the statement encourages communities “to remember that all memorials remain artifacts of their time and place.” They should thus be preserved, “just like any other historical document, whether in a museum or some other appropriate venue.”

Addressing arguments that removing some Confederate monuments could start a chain reaction, AHA said that decisions to remove memorials to Confederate generals “and officials who have no other major historical accomplishment does not necessarily create a slippery slope towards removing the nation’s founders, former presidents or other historical figures whose flaws have received substantial publicity in recent years.”

George Washington owned enslaved people, AHA said, “but the Washington Monument exists because of his contributions to the building of a nation. There is no logical equivalence between the builders and protectors of a nation -- however imperfect -- and the men who sought to sunder that nation in the name of slavery. There will be, and should be, debate about other people and events honored in our civic spaces. And precedents do matter. But so does historical specificity, and in this case the invocation of flawed analogies should not derail legitimate policy conversation.”

The full AHA statement is available here.

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AHA Weighs In on Confederate Monuments

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UNCF Seeks Delay of HBCU Conference

The United Negro College Fund added its voice Wednesday to calls from other supporters of historically black colleges for the White House to delay the HBCU Week conference set for September.

In a letter to the White House, UNCF President and CEO Michael Lomax urged the Trump administration to reconsider its decision to go ahead with the conference. Lomax said the administration should instead focus on appointing an executive director of the White House HBCU Initiative and developing concrete commitments to black colleges.

"UNCF and our member institutions believe that these actions would best actualize the administration's commitment to HBCUs in lieu of the convening planned for September," Lomax wrote. "Further, UNCF will not release, as part of the conference, an important national HBCU economic impact study that we have commissioned if the conference occurs as planned."

The letter from Lomax follows calls to postpone the conference from Representative Alma Adams, the North Carolina Democrat who chairs the House HBCU caucus, and Johnny Taylor Jr., the president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Omarosa Manigault-Newman, an assistant to the president and director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, said in response that the conference will go ahead as planned Sept. 17-19.

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White House Rejects Calls to Delay HBCU Event

The White House will go ahead with the planned schedule for its annual HBCU conference next month, despite calls over the last week to postpone the event and warnings that some leaders of historically black colleges would no longer attend.

Those calls appeared to reflect ongoing frustrations with the administration's approach to historically black colleges as well as concerns that the White House response to white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va., would distract from the conference.

Representative Alma Adams, a North Carolina Democrat and the chair of the HBCU Caucus, and Johnny Taylor, the president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, called in separate letters for the event to be postponed. Adams cited a lack of progress on issues of importance to HBCUs. Taylor raised concerns that "recent national events" could overshadow the conference, making it ultimately counterproductive. A number of HBCU leaders who had registered for the conference have also made it clear they will no longer attend, Taylor wrote in a letter to Omarosa Manigault-Newman, an assistant to the president and director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison.

Asked whether the letter referred specifically to events in Charlottesville, Paris Dennard, a spokesman for Taylor, said that the letter speaks for itself.

President Trump, meanwhile, has yet to name a new executive director or a board of advisers for the White House Initiative on HBCUs, despite promises that historically black colleges would be a priority for his administration. But Manigault-Newman said in a statement that the HBCU week will still take place as scheduled Sept. 17-19. And she said news about the executive director position and the board of advisers will be announced at the conference.

"President Trump’s commitment to the HBCU community remains strong and unwavering," she said. "Registration is currently at capacity and we are looking forward to welcoming HBCU presidents, students and guests. Additionally, an announcement about the HBCU executive director and the board will be announced at the conference."

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