Educating Black Elites: HBCUs, Public Policy, and the Redistribution of American Political Power
Deondra Rose

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Duke University

Primary Discipline

Political Science
Since 1837, when the Institute for Colored Youth was established in Pennsylvania, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have made valuable contributions to higher education in the United States. Until the mid-twentieth century, HBCUs represented the principal pathway to higher educational opportunity for African Americans. As a result, they have provided an important source of empowerment for black individuals, their families, and their communities. HBCUs have also played a pivotal role in educating African American leaders, including the vanguard of the U.S. civil rights movement and a disproportionate share of black political elites. As such, HBCUs have played an important role in shaping the distribution of political power in the United States. Although scholars have recognized the significance of HBCUs for providing black Americans with higher educational opportunity through much of the nation’s history, we have yet to fully consider the role that policymakers have played in shaping their development or the role that HBCUs have played in the redistribution of political power.This project investigates two central research questions: (1) What role has the government played in the development of historically black colleges and universities? and (2) How has government support for HBCUs shaped the distribution of political power in the United States? To answer these questions, I will use a mixed methods research approach: first, I will use historical analysis to examine the political development of HBCUs, paying particular attention to the role that the government has played in shaping their development and, thus, extending higher educational opportunity—and a pathway toward first-class citizenship—to African Americans. Second, I will examine the feedback effects of government support for HBCUs on political engagement by conducting a survey of black college graduates that examines higher educational experiences (at HBCUs and non-HBCUs), as well as measures of political and civil engagement. To investigate whether HBCU attendance plays a role in driving disproportionately high levels of political engagement, I will conduct in-depth interviews with black elected officials. If the survey data suggest that HBCU attendance is significantly associated with high levels of political engagement, these in-depth interviews could help to uncover the mechanisms by which this relationship operates. Taken together, these techniques will provide fresh insight into our understanding of the politics of HBCUs and could provide valuable lessons for how higher educational institutions can foster high levels of political and civic engagement among citizens who have been traditionally underrepresented in politics.
About Deondra Rose
Deondra Rose is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University. Her research focuses on the feedback effects of landmark higher education policies on the American political landscape. Her first book, Citizens by Degree (Oxford University Press, forthcoming), examines the development of the National Defense Education Act of 1958, the Higher Education Act of 1965, and Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments and their impact on the gender dynamics of American citizenship. Rose’s research has appeared in Studies in American Political Development, PS: Political Science & Politics, the Journal of Policy History, and the Journal of Women, Politics & Policy. A summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Georgia, Rose received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University, with a specialization in American Politics and public policy.

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