Maryland HBCUs Awarded Over $500 Million In Racial Discrimination Compensation

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
A recent half a billion dollar settlement is a victory for some Maryland HBCUs after a 14-year legal battle over institutional racism and discrimination. In this photo, Maryland Del. Charles Sydnor speaks at a news conference in Annapolis, Md., on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, about a rally next week to urge Gov. Larry Hogan and lawmakers to resolve a 2013 federal court order requiring the state to remedy decades of program duplication between Maryland’s predominantly white colleges and historically black colleges. Sydnor, a Baltimore County Democrat, said lawmakers will file legislation to resolve the dispute in upcoming legislative session, if the matter is not resolved. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

It’s nowhere near the equivalent of acceptable compensation for the countless woes suffered by Black America, but a recent settlement is a victory for some Maryland HBCUs. After a 14-year legal battle, the state has voted to award $577 million to four historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) for years of institutional racism, The Guardian reported.

The funding came through a bill known as HB1260, that granted the HBCUs the funding to create new degree programs, invest in scholarships, recruit faculty, etc. It received nearly unanimous bipartisan support in Maryland’s senate, making the rare legislative move a landmark case.

The money will be split between the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Bowie State, Coppin State and Morgan State Universities. It will be allocated based on enrollment at each school.

Chinedu Nwokeafor, an alumnus of Morgan State University, speaks during a rally in support of Maryland’s four historically black colleges in Annapolis, Maryland, on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

Michael Jones is a partner with Kirkland & Ellis LLP and one of the lead attorneys with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve had four failed mediations under two governors since 2013,” Jones told The Guardian. “It was a historic moment. Listening to it was like listening to the passage of major civil rights legislation.”

The original lawsuit was filed in 2006 by the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education. It accused the state of stealing innovative educational programs from Black universities and replicating them at white institutions to attract students who would have otherwise attended the HBCUs. As a result, it caused HBCUs struggled even more financially.

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Now that the bill has been passed, it will go to Governor Larry Hogan. It is veto-proof, but the coalition has until Dec. 1 to formally accept it or it will become null and void.

Advocates were overjoyed at what the settlement meant for HBCUs overall, which have been dealing with funding and resource issues since inception.

“We hope that an ultimate victory here might provide a pathway that can open up opportunities to achieve greater equity for HBCUS in other parts of the country,” said Lawyers’ Committee president and executive director Kristen Clarke.