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United Negro College Fund

The United Negro College Fund urges Senate to #PreserveHBCUs

The trending Twitter hashtag brings awareness to the much-needed preservation of historically black colleges

In the midst of a week celebrating historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) has initiated a 24-hour social media campaign urging the United States Senate to #PreserveHBCUs.

The campaign, which began Wednesday morning, encourages social media users, HBCU alumni and anyone else who is interested in the cause to contact senators and ask that the U.S. Senate allocate at least $5 million for the HBCU Historic Preservation, a program that aims to preserve and restore more than 700 historic buildings on HBCU campuses.

In mid-September, the House unanimously voted to pass H.R. 295, a bill that supports the re-authorization of the HBCU Historic Preservation Program, which was pushed by U.S. House assistant Democratic leader and South Carolina State University grad James E. Clyburn.

“As a former high school history teacher, I have worked during my tenure in Congress to preserve and protect our nation’s historic treasures,” Clyburn stated during a debate. “Historically black colleges and universities … are some of the most important historic educational institutions in our country. Many of them have buildings and sites on their campuses that have existed for over a century. Unfortunately, many of the historic buildings and sites on these campuses have deteriorated over the years and are at risk of being lost completely if not preserved and protected.”

The first grants authorized to HBCUs by Congress was in 1996. Two years later, the U.S. Government Accountability Office surveyed HBCUs campuses and revealed that restoration and preservation of 712 historic buildings and sites would cost around $755 million. No federal funds have been used to restore HBCUs since 2009.

So far, hundreds of tweets have rolled in showing support through the hashtag #PreserveHBCUs, including those from congressional representatives and tweets of various HBCU campuses from the schools’ accounts. HBCUs are a strategic priority for UNCF, and the organization has a multifaceted advocacy effort in place to continue gaining steam and increasing awareness through this campaign until Congress adjourns.

“HBCUs have a significant place in American history and provide incredible value and values to minority and low-income students, and to the communities in which they reside,” UNCF senior vice president of public policy and government affairs Cheryl Smith said in a press release. “The HBCU Historic Preservation Program serves an essential purpose to HBCUs, which have a special place in the fabric of American history, culture and education. We look forward to working with the Senate to ensure final passage before the 114th Congress adjourns.”

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.