Harvard University will hold first ever black only graduation ceremony

Organisers say it will celebrate black achievement and draw attention to university's 'legacy of slavery'

Niamh McIntyre
Thursday 11 May 2017 16:21 BST
Harvard University students attend graduation ceremonies in 2009
Harvard University students attend graduation ceremonies in 2009

Harvard University will host a graduation ceremony exclusively for black students, organisers have announced.

More than 170 students and 530 guests have signed up to attend the event, which will be held 23 May.

All-black ceremonies have been held at other US universities, such as Stanford and Columbia, but this will be a historic first for Harvard.

The event was crowdfunded by students who raised over $27,000 (£21,000). This year, the all-black ceremony is open only to graduate students, but organisers hope to open it up to undergraduates next year.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate Harvard’s black excellence and black brilliance,” Michael Huggins told The Root website.

Mr Huggins, who is graduating with a master’s in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, added: “It’s an event where we can see each other and our parents and family can see us as a collective, whole group. A community.”

Another organiser of the event said the ceremony would also draw attention to the experience of black students at Harvard and other elite institutions.

“Harvard’s institutional foundation is in direct conflict with the needs of black students,” Courtney Woods said.

“There is a legacy of slavery, epistemic racism and colonisation at Harvard, which was an institution founded to train rising imperialist leaders. This is a history that we are reclaiming.”

The Black graduation event comes at a time of heightened student activism in response to racism on college campuses.

Washington DC University has recently launched an investigation after racist messages were found scrawled across bananas scattered around the campus.

Last year, Harvard admitted its highest ever number of African-American students. However, they still comprised just 14 per cent of the 2016 population.

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