In 1963, a Jan. 26 edition of The Times-News reported that Tulane University won against a federal court order that would force the university to admit black students. According to the article, Tulane’s founder, Paul Tulane, emphasized that the university would be for white students only.
Eventually, the court forced the university to do otherwise. In 1963, Pearlie Elloie was admitted into Tulane University and earned her master’s degree in social work.
Through the years since the eventual desegregation, the university has had many instances of blatant racism that have put it at odds with the rest of the city. Just as the bead tree in the academic quad carries years upon years of Mardi Gras’ past, the university has a long and profuse history weighed down by racism, from blackface marches to “Dranksgiving” to infamous Yik Yaks.
The repercussions of these anti-black tendencies have stunted Tulane’s projectability for student enrollment in a city rich with black history, black food and black culture. The university boasts a 8.84 percent Black population while New Orleans has a Black population of over 60 percent.
It is now Feb. 14, and Black History Month is halfway over. The current Tulane administration has failed to address it yet this year. The View from Gibson, the letter sent out to the Tulane community from President Mike Fitts each Friday, has been silent the entire month besides the announcement of the 2019 commencement speaker. No letters to the Tulane community have mentioned the month of observance.
Yet, Tulane Admission website is filled with videos of second-lines, odes to creole cuisine and its pride of being located in the “Best College City.” The university prides itself on integrating elements of New Orleans culture without accepting, or addressing, the rest of said history.
The university speaks on the “power of Tulane,” but this administration has done little with its power to improve outreach to the New Orleans community now, or address its actions that have barred the enrollment of prospective students in the past.
2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of African slaves in the Americas. This quadricentennial period has seen the struggle for civil rights for Black Americans, but has also witnessed their courage and achievements despite the obstacles facing them.
Outside of the issues that continue to face the nation, the university faces its own moral dilemmas such as the “It’s Okay to be White” signs put up around campus and the obstruction of “Black Lives Matter” signs put up in academic buildings. The administration has still put no effort into addressing either of these incidents and, with it, has lost a portion of its credibility.
The university’s reluctance to speak out now, during Black History Month speaks volumes about where its priorities lie. The burden of highlighting the accomplishments and arts of black people should not rest entirely within the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Center for Public Service, the Taylor Center and other “social justice-centered spaces.”
To effectively display its commitment to diversity, the university should acknowledge the contributions made by Black people and the importance of Black History Month. Even further, the university should not limit itself to lending a voice to this issue, but instead, it should lead the charge in progressing social change at Tulane, in New Orleans and in the country respectively.
In essence, the task of remembering and recognizing Black history lies with Tulane as an institution and the entire Tulane community. Remembering the detriments of the past is the only true way for the university to enact change for the future.