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Juneteenth Letter From Dr. Lezli Baskerville, President & CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education to the 700,000 HBCU & PBI Students 2023

My Dear Sons and Daughters:

Today, June 19 (known as Juneteenth) , as we celebrate the abolition of slavery in Texas, fully two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, four months after passage of the Constitution’s 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, and two months after Robert E Lee surrendered, we are lifting those of you who are continuing to advance the Black Lives Matter Movement, the Lose the Noose Movement, any movement for educational, economic, employment, environmental, housing, health, justice, or to protect First Amendments rights, the reproductive rights of women, and the rights of others to go an come as they please unhindered or interfered with because of their religion, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, self-identity (others). We are lifting those of you who are working indefatigably to protect democracy in America against tremendous odds, and especially to protect the most fundamental of our rights, the right to vote and to have every vote duly cast, counted.

As President and CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, NAFEO, I am so proud that in every state, HBCU and PBI students have joined with other students and young adults in leading or supporting the launching of the Twenty-first Century revolution that is being televised, and “social media-rized,” thereby swelling and internationalizing the ranks of those on the right side of history as never before. Your HBCU and PBI education and training grounds are well equipped to arm you with what you need to move the Nation closer to realizing the Egalitarian Ideal, and making the world more peaceful and just.

HBCUs and PBIs remain at the creative forefront of American education, offering the tools and skills necessary to prepare students to promote peace at home and abroad; secure our communities and our homeland; meet pressing global and community health care needs; fight injustice with the power of ideas; close the achievement, economic, wealth, and health gaps; and open doors of opportunity to those who are ill-served by many of the systems in our communities and the Nation.

You, my Sons and Daughters, knew where and how to lead today’s revolution because at your college or university, you are receiving not only vital academic preparation, but you are being trained in education, liberation, economics, theology, technology, and justice. Your faculty are preparing you to leverage your discipline to move individuals and communities of least advantage to higher ground. No matter what you are studying, faculty on your campus want you to understand that the degree you receive must not only be used to improve your quality of life and that of your families, but must also be leveraged for the good of the whole.

Since their inception, HBCUs have been fertile germination, organization, and training grounds for every Twentieth and Twenty-first Century movement for civil rights, social and economic justice. Recall the “Mighty Men of Morehouse” who rose to lead the national civil rights movement and international movements for peace and justice; Medgar Evers, for whom Medgar Evers College, CUNY, is named, an alumnus of Alcorn State University who helmed the Mississippi NAACP and was gunned down while organizing voter registration campaigns in the State; Ella Baker who as a student at Shaw University in 1960, founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the precursor of the student justice associations of today, and one of the most influential organizations of the Civil Rights Movement.

There were the North Carolina A & T students whose sit-in at the segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter launched the national sit-in movement; the “Legal Eagles” from Howard University worked around the clock without the benefit of computers, dictaphones, the Internet, or sleep to prepare compelling district, circuit, and Supreme Court briefs in every landmark civil rights and social justice case since the period just after the Civil War. The University of the District of Columbia students swelled the ranks of protesters at the South African Embassy until Apartheid crumbled. Countless other HBCU students, faculty staff, and alumni have been shaping, advancing, and supporting the efforts to prod the creation of a more just, equitable, and peaceful world. Today, Attorney Justin Hansford, CEO of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University School of Law and an elected member of the UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent for 2022-2024, just used that international forum to raise the issues of reparations and racial justice.

HBCU/PBI students, I am so proud of you every day, but especially today as you continue to be the heart and soul of the movements for civil and human rights, economic justice, and a peaceful and just society. Do not grow weary of fighting for justice ‘for in due season, we will reap the harvest if we don’t give up.’ The organized and strategic actions of HBCUs and PBI students who preceded you in leading the movements of their time, yielded among other things: the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the Voting Rights Act of 1965; the Fair Housing Act of 1968; the crumbling of Apartheid; the passage of environmental justice laws; and just recently, the protection of the employment rights of LGBTQ workers, and the protection from deportation of our brown and black Brothers and Sisters who are also DREAMers. Remain focused, determined, strategic, courageous, optimistic, resilient, passionate and persevering. NAFEO and I are here to support you in any manner of means.


The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) is the nation’s only national membership association of all of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs). Founded in 1969, by the presidents and chancellors of HBCUs and other equal educational opportunity institutions, NAFEO is a one of a kind membership association representing the presidents and chancellors of the public, private, independent, and land-grant, two-year, four-year, graduate and professional, HBCUs and PBIs.

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