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Wilson highlights contributions from black Americans in higher education

Jeff Wilson of the University of Memphis speaks Feb. 12 as part of Union's Black History Month program. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)
Jeff Wilson of the University of Memphis speaks Feb. 12 as part of Union's Black History Month program. (Photo by Morris Abernathy)

JACKSON, Tenn.Feb. 26, 2010 – Union University held its third annual Black History Month program Feb. 12 featuring Jeff Wilson from the University of Memphis as the keynote speaker.

The program’s theme this year was “Black Collegians: Past, Present and Future” and Wilson focused on the challenges and achievements black collegians have had and then looked ahead to the future of racial diversity in higher education.

Wilson, who is the assistant professor of education for the University of Memphis higher education leadership program, gave a brief overview of black history in America. He focused on the role of collegians, saying that “higher education mirrors what is going on in a society.”

One example was the case of Missouri v. Gaines in 1938. The state of Missouri offered to pay for Gaines, a black student who wanted to go to law school, to go to a different state for his law degree because they did not have a separate facility for black students. Gaines filed suit and the case ended in a Supreme Court ruling that any state that offers a school for white students must also provide in-state education for black students.

After showing the history of what black Americans have done to achieve education opportunities, Wilson expressed his excitement for the future of today’s students.

“When you look back and you look now you see things on college campuses,” Wilson said. “You see the opportunity that people have and the opportunity they are taking advantage of. The hard work and the dedication and the commitment that you see in young people on college campuses, and the potential that they have and the great things they are going to do -- those are things that we have to look forward to.”

The program also included a short presentation by MOSAIC, an organization at Union that reaches out to ethnic minority students, a gospel hymn sung by the MOSAIC Gospel Choir and a violin and piano suite composed by William Grant Still, one of the first black composers of classical music.

Union University President David S. Dockery showed his appreciation for the history of black Americans in education, recognizing that “higher education has been used as an instrument to advance racial reconciliation.”

Earlier in the day, also as part of Union’s Black History Month emphasis, K. Edward Copeland, senior pastor of New Zion Baptist Church in Rockford, Ill., spoke in chapel.

By Angela Abbamonte (’11)

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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