The State Must Provide: Why America’s Colleges Have Always Been Unequal—and How To Set Them Right

Ecco. Aug. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9780062976482. $27.99. ED
In this book about racial inequality in the American higher education system from Reconstruction to the present, Harris (staff writer, the Atlantic) considers the motivations of abolitionists such as Cassius Marcellus Clay and John G. Fee to improve educational opportunities for Black students. He also describes the hopeful but short-lived efforts of progressive colleges such as Oberlin and Berea, and the rise of land grant colleges due to legislation introduced by Justin Morrill. Harris underpins this narrative with the history of pioneering, tumultuous efforts in Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Mississippi to admit Black students to university and to redress the issue of Black colleges being separate but not equal. Harris also discusses parity struggles after school desegregation; Head Start; and legal cases that opposed affirmative action. He ends with a sobering assessment of a “century of racial caste in higher education,” examining declining college enrollment among Black Americans, even in states with sizeable Black populations; the potential impact of COVID-19 on college closures; the Universities Studying Slavery consortium; and arguments for atonement and reparations.
VERDICT Profound and thought-provoking, this work is recommended for anyone who wants to understand the structural inequities of the U.S. educational system.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing