Gov. Kay Ivey declares October HBCU Month in Alabama

By Rebecca Griesbach, The Associated Press

Gov. Kay Ivey signed a proclamation Oct. 3 declaring the month as HBCU Month.

The signing makes Alabama the first state in the country, leaders say, to dedicate a month to recognize Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“The recognition of these elite historic institutions by Governor Ivey is significant,” Dr. Quinton Ross, President of Alabama State University in Montgomery, said in a press release Wednesday. “No other State has dedicated an entire month in recognition of HBCUs. This speaks volumes to the Governor’s understanding of the value of these institutions to the state and nation.”

Alabama has the largest number of HBCUs in the nation. HBCUs make up more than a quarter of the state’s four-year institutions and enroll 40% of all Black undergraduates.

But despite the role that HBCUs have played in educating the nation’s workforce, many were blocked for decades from federal programming and additional funding – and some say they’re still struggling to fill funding gaps.

“Our institutions have not — and still are not — being treated the same,” Alabama A&M University President Andrew Hugine Jr. told CBS News last year.

Efforts to address the issue began in 1980 with a White House initiative to provide support for HBCUs. In September, President Joseph Biden signed an Executive Order to re-establish the initiative, which largely aimed to support HBCUs throughout the pandemic. He also issued a proclamation recognizing the second week of September as National HBCU Week.

In Alabama, Ivey’s proclamation comes amid a few recent initiatives to boost job growth and workforce diversity at the state level.

The Alabama Office of Minority Affairs, for example, was established in 2016 to advise the governor on issues affecting women and minorities in the state. The agency now has a HBCU Co-Op Program focuses on establishing a pipeline of diverse talent between the state’s HBCUs and Alabama’s workforce.

Nichelle Williams Nix, Director of the Alabama Office of Minority Affairs, said the recognition is a welcome addition to current efforts to strengthen and diversify the state’s workforce.

“Governor Ivey supports the important role that Alabama HBCUs play in their respective communities and in the State, and this Proclamation highlights that,” she said in a press release.