As the graduation season is in full swing, we’re reminded that nearly half of black college students were never taught by a professor of their own race.

According to a survey, from

42 percent of African Americans who attended a predominantly white university never had a single black professor during four years of college.

Nearly three-quarters of these students (74 percent) had only one black professor in a field outside of African American studies.

In a recent piece for, Dr. Boyce Watkins, professor at Syracuse University commented on the survey’s results, writing:

There are various theories regarding why black professors are missing in many of America’s universities. To hear the story told by many campus administrators, black professors are missing because they simply don’t exist or are all unqualified to teach at predominantly white institutions. “We can’t find qualified minorities” is the typical comment made on many campuses who claim to seek diversity. In my experience teaching at the college level over the past 17 years, I cannot agree with this assessment. My in-box is full of stories from black professors all over the country who either cannot get academic jobs, or who were released from their campuses because they “didn’t fit” with the culture of the faculty in their departments.

The survey’s results made me think back to my own college experience and my interactions with black professors. Like those surveyed, I too attended a predominantly white university. Fortunately, I was blessed to take classes with two phenomenal African American women professors. What I learned from Professor Tayari Jones and Dr. Linda Bland Stewart went beyond just the classroom. Whether I was editing my creative writing pieces with an award-winning author or learning about linguistics and ethnicity from one of the most revered experts in her field, there was an empowering message sent merely from their presence.

Every experience is different. For my friends who attended HBCUs, the Black professor was less of a rarity. But on a campus where students of color were few and far between, having even one great Black professor was a gift. Standing in front of the class, they let students like myself see Blacks could be gifted, recognized academics, a model rarely seen on campuses across the country.

What are your thoughts on the survey, Clutchettes and gents? Do the results tell the story of your college experience? Share your thoughts!

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  • Pamela

    The reason you don’t see black college professors on non-black campuses is simple. Those campuses would never hire a black over a non-black person for the job. Period. Take the sciences, math, or engineering or law. If anyone who even “looked” black were qualified, i.e. had all the right educational credentials, and they applied for an open position at an all-white college like any of the Ivies, they’d get turned down even if they did pass the paper screen. They’d get the “thanks for stopping by” interview even if they made it that far in the hiring process. It’s just like trying to be a public K-12 high school math or science teacher and looking “black.” I”m Native American and there are so many times I get passed over for even middle-school math teaching jobs that I can’t even begin to list all of them. Anyone with dark skin, let alone an actual black person, would be passed over for all the “hard” science teaching jobs anywhere but the Black areas, the black colleges, and ghetto schools in bad neighborhoods of our large cities. It’s also why most blacks and Native Americans too, don’t bother majoring in anything but social work or ethnic studies in colleges. Even when they do get in to the Ivies they major in “soft” fields or ethnic studies because that’s all they’ll be able to GET jobs in once they graduate.

    Simply put, it’s racism in the academic job market.

    • Deni

      Pam you are so right…..! any field that has a promise of high paying job…you will see they will not hire a black professor or even want black students in their class…

      They fear that Black students will get higher grades and if the slat was fair will “Get the Job”

      I once was in a medical imaging program…during my training …I was the only Black student in the class…

      During testing time…the White students would be cheating and nothing was done about it!…..
      When I did my clinicals I was sent far from my house while the white students were giving clinicals near their house..

      Also during my clinicals I was asked to clean the beds while the white students were taught the ropes of the job and when I can in….the teacher stop talking….The clinical teacher was from INDIA and did not like Blacks.

      I complaint about it and was let go….they said they let me go because of my grades ..BS…I was getting “A’s and “B’s” only weeks before….

      You see that was the only legal reason they could let me go…..
      They got all the scholarship money…

      I tried to fight it at the NAACP and guess who I had to tell the story to and try to make a claim.?…it was a non-Black woman who took sides with the school without even investigating my grades weeks before….

      Oh did I mention? the teacher ask me to watch porno movies with him at his house and I decline…

  • new moon

    I went to a predominatley white University (a state school in PA)….and I had 2 wonderful Black professors. Sociology and Criminal Justice professors respectively. Zero complaints! They were both a breath of fresh air.

  • Deni

    To say that Black professor are not “Qualified” is another way of keeping Blacks for leadership jobs and developing future leaders..

    In my experience I have seen PLENTY of White un-qualified professors in Universities and colleges who did not know their head from their feet, but was allow to teach despite of many complaints and failure rates. If they had tenure and head of the department it was hard to get rid of them.

    From my experience, I’ve seen many white professor grade the Black students with lower grades despite of A work. or they would be “Tight” with the Black students….”.Tight” mean taking off points for anything for the hell of it, but not doing the same with the white students..

    I even had one professor tell a racial joke in my class, (where I was the only Black student) he said to the class..”a little biracial Jewish/African American boy came to his mother as asked….Mom have I been in persecuted for 2000 years or 400 years” in that was insulting and I was young so I just let it pass by me…this was at Roosevelt University in Chicago!

    I have seen White students cheat and the professor just turn their head to the problem…

    I have also seen White students just sign their name during testing time and “Wink at the professor to acknowledge he/she was there and walk out and get an “A”….

    How many Blacks are in the honors club…WHY?

    My point is…there are plenty of Black professors out there…they are not hiring in fear that Black students will no longer be discriminating against and no longer be giving unfair grades. despite of their hard work a long side of their white colleagues.

    “Little sally” and her other white friends would instead of partying and getting high every night..would have to study to earn their grade from a Black professor.

  • r.

    i’d say that our informal institutions produce this racializing outcome. it’s even worse in the UK, where they’ve only 50 afro-caribbean or south saharan african professors (of either sex). moreover, most folks (of any race or ethic or national background) do not take seriously what most professors of african descent have to say – because we believe in the West that knowledge production in the Academy is the province of Europe.

  • Tom Roberts

    Wow, there is a lot of paranoia on here. Everybody talk about how they’re victims so they never have to take responsibility for their own lives. You guys know nothing about discrimination. I never hear about foreigners being discriminated against. They just work their butts off. Why do I see so many African and Nigerian Doctors and Engineers while all the lazy people out here try to play the race card instead of paying their dues. Kids are lazy these days.

    • yes, i did, both as an undergraduate and in graduate school.