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."