Issues: The Podcast
Bennett College was founded by Free Enslaved Americans who wanted more opportunities for their descendants. We are grateful the Creator of the Kwanzaa Stamp World Famous artist
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Bennett College was founded August 1, 1873 as a normal school for seventy African-American men and women (freedmen or former slaves). The school’s founder Albion W. Tourgee was an activist in the second half of the 19th century who championed the cause of racial equality. The school held its inaugural classes in the basement of Warnersville Methodist Episcopal Church North (now St. Matthew’s United Methodist) in Greensboro. Bennett was coeducational and offered both high school and college-level courses, in an effort to compensate for the lack of educational opportunity for many blacks. The year after its founding, the school became sponsored by the Freedman’s Aid Society and Southern Education Society of the northern Methodist Episcopal Church. Bennett remained affiliated for 50 years with the Freedman’s Aid Society. In 1878, freedmen purchased land for a future college campus (this is the current site). Hearing of what was being done, New York businessman Lyman Bennett provided $10,000 in funding to build a permanent campus. Bennett died soon thereafter, and the school was named Bennett Seminary and a bell was created in his honor. Hearing of Bennett’s philanthropy his coworkers continued his mission by providing the bell for the school.
In 1888, Bennett Seminary elected its first African-American president, the Reverend Charles N. Grandison. Grandison spearheaded a successful drive to have the school chartered as a four-year college in 1889. Two of the first African-American bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church were graduates of the college, including Robert Elijah Jones, an 1895 graduate and brother of future president David Dallas Jones. Under the direction of Reverend Grandison and succeeding President Jordan Chavis, Bennett College grew from 11 undergraduate students to a total of 251 undergraduates by 1905. The enrollment leveled out in the 1910s at roughly 300.
In 1916, a survey conducted by the Phelps-Stokes Foundation recommended Bennett College be converted to a college exclusively for women. The Women’s Home Missionary Society, which had supported women at the college since 1886, had found that there was not a four-year college for African-American women only, and sought a school for that mission. North Carolina Board of Education offered Bennett College. After ten years, during which it studied other locations and conducted fundraising, the Women’s Home Missionary Society and the NC Board of Education decided to develop the college in its current location. Bennett fully transitioned as a women’s college in 1926. Note: The Women’s Home Missionary Society’s on-campus involvement with Bennett women dates back to 1886.
In 1926, David Dallas Jones was installed as president of the new women’s college. Under his leadership, the college expanded, reaching an enrollment of 400. It became known in the black community as the Vassar College of the south, and Jones recruited faculty, staff and student body, from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Although his leadership of the college was very accomplished, it was also marked with controversy.
In 1937, Bennett students protested downtown Greensboro movie theaters because of the depictions of black women in film and segregation of movie theaters (the latter required by state law of the time). President Jones’ daughter Frances Jones, a freshwoman, led the protest. This protest during the Great Depression, with Jim Crow ruling in the South, was a catalyst for Jones to be visited by the FBI and other government agencies. They were concerned about communist and leftist activities and ordered him to prohibit the students from protesting. Jones refused. At his invitation, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt came to the college on March 22, 1945 to meet with an integrated group of school children from Greensboro. Other visitors to the campus included Benjamin Elijah Mays, former Morehouse College president; poet Robert Frost and writer James Weldon Johnson. Jones led the college for almost 30 years until he became ill in 1955, when he named Willa B. Player interim president. Note: (Bennett’s brother college is Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. This relationship developed through the historic friendship of David Dallas Jones and Benjamin E. Mays.)
In October 1956, Willa Beatrice Player was inaugurated as President of Bennett College. She was the first African-American woman to be president of a four-year, fully accredited liberal arts college or university. During Player’s tenure, Bennett in 1957 was one of the first historically black colleges to receive accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). On February 11, 1958 she allowed civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at the school; he was prohibited by the city from speaking publicly anywhere else in Greensboro. His speech was entitled, “A Realistic Look At Race Relations,” and was delivered to a standing-room-only audience at Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel on campus. Player said about this visit, “Bennett College is a liberal arts college where ‘freedom rings,’ so King can speak here.” King, Howard Thurman and Benjamin Elijah Mays inspired Bennett Belles during President Vespers series to lead civil rights protests in Greensboro.
In February 1960 students from Bennett College and North Carolina A&T began a civil rights protest in downtown Greensboro. Bettye Davis, class of 1963, committed to sitting at the white-only lunch counter of F. and W. Woolworth‘s variety store with students from A&T and to return until it was integrated. On February 4, 1960, close to a dozen “Bennett Belles” were arrested due to their continuing protest at Woolworth’s.
On April 22, 1960, The Daily News of New York broke the story of the arrests nationally with front-page headlines and a picture of well-dressed female students awkwardly entering the back of a paddy wagon without assistance from the police officers surrounding it. It reported that Greensboro police were surprised by the behavior of “Bennett Belles,” who were considered refined young women from an “elitist finishing school” in the Greensboro community. At the peak of the sit-in movement, more than 40% of Bennett’s student body was jailed. Player personally visited students in jail, carrying their assignments to them so they would not fall behind in their studies.
Willa B. Player, the activist president, led Bennett until 1966, after which Isaac H. Miller succeeded him. His father had been an administrator at Bennett during former President Frank Trigg’s tenure.
Miller maintained the “Bennett Ideal”, despite social changes of the late 1960s, during which students protested strict dress codes, disciplinary policies, and curfew. During the 1967-68 school year, freshwomen walked out of dormitories 1 minute before curfew. Students took over the student union demanding change. Miller surrounded the buildings with campus security, and brought in family and sleeping bags, changing the protest to a campus-wide sleep over. Students were required to wear dresses or skirts, hats and gloves until the early 1970s.
Miller collaborated with other colleges and universities in Greensboro to form a consortium which expanded Bennett’s academic program offerings by giving students access to other local universities. His administration developed the Biomedical research and interdisciplinary studies programs, along with a bridge program in conjunction with Meharry Medical College of Nashville, Tennessee. He collaborated with other HBCU presidents to establish the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, serving on the first board of directors. Miller’s plans were supported by alumnae, who increased material and fiscal resources. Bennett’s endowment grew and four new buildings were constructed on campus. Miller served as president for 21 years, the second-longest presidential tenure in Bennett College history and during a period of considerable social change. He retired in 1987. Gloria Randle Scott became Bennett’s 12th president and its second woman in that position.
Gloria Randle Scott started as President of Bennett College on July 1, 1987. She developed offerings with additional programs. She established the Women’s Leadership Institute, and the Center for African Women and Women of the African Diaspora. Bennett admitted new African immigrants as well as students who were residents of Africa. In 1989, poet and activist Maya Angelou was installed as a member of the board of trustees. Scott was President of Bennett for 14 years before retiring in 2001.
In June 2002 came big changes for Bennett College. The school was revitalized and much needed renovations were made to campus buildings under the leadership of Sister President Emerita Johnnetta B. Cole who spearheaded a $50 million campaign. Also under her leadership the New Academy – an academic program, the Johnnetta B. Cole Diversity and Inclusion Institute, and an art gallery were added to expand the culture of the college. Dr. Cole also enhanced the study abroad program. Health and fitness were added to encourage students to learn to lead healthy lives. Numerous prominent figures spoke at the campus and some helped raise funds for its operations. Former President Bill Clinton, former US Senator Robert Dole, trustee emerita Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey have assisted in fundraising. The campaign closed successfully at the end of Cole’s tenure on June 30, 2007.
On July 1, 2007, Julianne Malveaux became President of Bennett College. She has led a $21 million expansion and renovation project of the college. She increased enrollment, added four new buildings, including a multimedia center, and renovated additional buildings. Malveaux enhanced the overall academic curriculum, which focuses on women’s leadership, entrepreneurship, communications, and global studies.
On July 1, 2012, Esther Terry ’61 became the first alumna to lead the college. Already serving as the College’s provost, Terry was made interim president for a full academic year. During the May 2013 commencement ceremony, the Board of Trustees announced Terry would be officially termed as 16th President of Bennett College.
Phyllis Worthy Dawkins assumed presidency on August 15, 2016. Previous serving as Provost, Dr. Dawkins focused on faculty/staff recruitment, reinvigorating living learning communities, and launched a leadership institute.
Since 1930, Bennett has graduated more than 7,000 students, affectionately known as “Bennett Belles.”
In 1930, on the graduation of its first four women with a 4-year bachelor’s degree, the ‘A’ rating was granted to the college by the North Carolina State Department of Education. This same rating was granted the college in 1936 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the college’s regional accreditor. Today, the college is accredited by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) and the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
In 1957, Bennett was one of the first and the only private Black college to be admitted into full membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It has also been a member of the American Association of Colleges, The Commission on Black Colleges of the University Senate, the American Association of Registrars and Admission Officers, the American Council of Education, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, the College Fund/UNCF, the Council on Independent Colleges, the Women’s College Coalition, the North Carolina Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the NCB Piedmont Automated Library System (NCBPALS), the Greater Greensboro Consortium, and the New York University Faculty Resource Network.
The college is currently accredited by SACS. However, the college was on probation for two years in the early 2000s because the college was experiencing significant financial challenges. In 2016, SACS placed the college on probation again for the same reason. In December 2018, SACS voted to withdraw the college’s accreditation. The school is appealing.
The Quakers help to settle a community that we call Warnersville. Today Warnersville has been resettled and the quaint community who had it’s own schools, Doctor Dr. Hampton, service station Mr. Stokes. A snack bar owned by my mothers GrandParent. A Historic School in Warnersville was recently demolished. It is basically the last structure from that era.
Later the projects housing community was planned.
Greensboro, NC also had historically Black Colleges who today are still in existence, NCA&T and Bennett College who are the eyes and ears to the black world because students from all over the world come here to be educated.
When Dr. Martin Luther King came to Greensboro he spoke at Bennett College for women. The only place that would accept him to speak.
Things To Do In Greensboro
MLK Parade- MLK BLVD
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Parade Event Hours: 11:00am to 1:00pm
Parade Route: Starting at Benbow Professional Building and ending at MLK Jr. Drive & Gorrell St.
See parade map below
Motorists are reminded that pedestrians have the right of way, and are asked to use caution where participants are present.
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Your Financial System Makes up the core of your Life.
Here is an interesting Article that Defines the 10 Commandments of Economic Development
10 Commandments of Black Economic Empowerment
by Dr Boyce Watkins
I’ve taught Finance at the college level for over 20 years. I also learned more about Finance by the age of 25 than most experts learn in a lifetime. But one of the funny things about stuffing all of this knowledge into my brain is that I found that being forced to align a series of very complex ideas almost always brings us back to the simple things. For example, I realized that, even as a young finance faculty member at Syracuse University, I would often call my late grandmother Felicia to get financial advice.
My grandmother never had the chance to finish college and she never earned more than $25,000 per year. But in all of those years, after raising four kids without a husband, I never once saw her borrow money from anyone. She always had perfect credit. She owned her own home and car. Relatives earning five times more than she was would come to her to borrow money. Her financial situation was in perfect order on the day she died, all the way down to the Louisville Cardinal red dress she wore when they put her in her casket.
In other words, my grandmother went out like a baller. I also realize that, in hindsight, she was my first finance professor.
So, it is in the spirit of my late grandmother that I share some of what I learned from our thousands of conversations, from all of those thick text books I studied in school, and also from the game of life which led to me create what I call “The 10 Commandments of Black Economic Empowerment.” If just 10% of all black people followed the rules written in this article, we would become the mightiest economic force on the planet:
1) Never get all of your income from one source: Most people choose a job by asking themselves one simple question – “How much money am I going to make?”
By choosing your career path based solely on how much money you’ll make, you’re missing the vast majority of all of the benefits that come with choosing the right career. Another factor that people often overlook is the importance of factoring in financial security as one of the primary measuring sticks of what might determine the right career decision. When you earn all of your income from one source, you are ultimately controlled by the person or entity that is providing your family’s means of survival. In other words, you’ve effectively sold yourself into slavery. For some people, slavery is much more acceptable if they get to keep the money themselves.
My greatest economic freedom came when I found ways to make money outside of my job. This not only filled my pockets, but it also filled my spirit. When I was attacked by Bill O’Reilly years ago, and threatened with job loss for being an outspoken black man, I was able to tell my bosses (and O’Reilly) to go to hell. You can’t put a price tag on being a free black man, it has literally kept me out of the insane asylum.
2) Never go through life without adequate training and education: Running away from education effectively means that you’re running right toward slavery. Any person who doesn’t want to put in the work to get additional education and training is going to pay a very high price with all of the stress, hard work and heartache they will endure playing catch up for their entire life. The fact that it’s easier to get some people to turn on an episode of “Scandal” or the NBA finals than it is to get them to crack a book is indicative of the fact that our priorities are all screwed up.
I get disgusted when I receive an email from a college student whose friends have told her that she’s a nerd for wanting to study on a Saturday night. These so-called “nerds” in college are the ones who are running the world 20 years later. We can’t just be known as the people who will spend 10 hours a day on the basketball court and five hours at the after party. There’s a lot more to life than getting “turnt up.”
Your hard work today is that which protects you from volatility and turmoil tomorrow. You should always be working to learn something new, all the time. Laziness will get you nothing but self-pity when your life is falling apart and you have no idea why.
3) Never allow yourself to become addicted to money: Money is valuable and it is powerful. You should never underestimate its significance in your life. But if you allow yourself to become someone who worships money or will do anything for another dollar, you’ve basically watered down your entire existence. I’ve seen rich financial addicts, who define themselves by how much money they have. I’ve seen poor financial addicts who will do anything to have a chance to live like rich people do. I’ve seen rappers who will write a thousand lyrics about how much money they’ve made, as if it somehow makes them a more worthy human being. Then, they’ll write another thousand lyrics about how they turned around and gave it right back to the white man. Let’s please stop celebrating this kind of coonery….it’s not cool, it’s not masculine, it’s not productive. It’s f–king stupid.
The problem with financial addiction is that any black person choosing to become addicted to a commodity that is primarily controlled by whites is basically putting himself into a position where someone is going to be able to control their very existence. This means that, whenever your spirit tells you to take a stand for your community, you’re going to be told to sit right back down because in the eyes of those who own you, you’re not a man, you’re just a weak, dependent little boy. As the rapper Immortal Technique likes to say, “Not all money is good money,” and we should train our minds to know the difference.
4) Never allow your self-esteem to be contingent upon validation from predominantly white institutions: One way that black people are consistently hypnotized by racist institutions is that we’ve somehow concluded that we are more worthy than other black people if white people like us. So, if I’ve got a prominent position at a white-owned university, I am always “more successful” than the scholars teaching black students at HBCUs. If I am a vice president at IBM, I’m somehow more accomplished than the black entrepeneur who earns half of my salary. By allowing professional carrots to be held above our heads, we are effectively giving power to the person who controls the carrot. It is critical to realize that you are an important person, even if white people don’t like you. Malcolm X figured this out a long time ago.
5) Avoid allowing yourself to go deep into debt, especially for the wrong reasons: Debt is not always a bad thing. It can actually give you the chance to take advantage of good investment opportunities. If used appropriately, debt is actually a financial time machine: Allowing you to do things today that might take years to do if you had to wait until you’ve accumulated all of the capital yourself. But in addition to these other things, debt is also an OBLIGATION. With any obligation, there is a great deal of power in the hands of the entity to which you owe that debt. The United States government is vulnerable to the Chinese government because a) We’ve accumulated far too much debt and b) much of that debt is held by Chinese citizens. That’s bad for our national security.
If you’re deep in debt like most Americans, you probably have to keep pushing just to make your interest payments and avoid default. This means that, if you have just one job supplying all of your income, you are that much more beholden (and enslaved) by your employer because your overwhelming debt has precluded your ability to walk away from your existing situation. The point here is that if you’re not careful, debt can make you feel financially trapped, which is not a good place to be.
6) Always save your money, no matter what: Everyone can save, I don’t care how broke you are. If you can give tithes to your pastor, then you can also give tithes to your family, your community, your future and yourself. Saving your money and getting rid of debt if possible are ways to create the kind of financial cushion that protects you from sudden shocks in your economic situation. A person who has been saving her money, cutting down her debt, building her skillset and creating alternative revenue streams is almost always going to be better able to handle an economic downturn than someone who has done the opposite.
My grandmother Felicia and I: My first finance professor
My grandmother Felicia and I on a visit to Morehouse college a few months before she died
7) Always think like an investor: Investing doesn’t always relate to money. In fact, it rarely does. The most valuable resources we have in our lives relate to things that are non-financial: Our health, happiness, freedom, relationships, etc. Every time you allocate a resource toward a long-term goal, you’re making an investment. You’re investing when you spend time with your children, when you go to the gym, when you take a business meeting, when you pick up a book, when you buy a savings bond, when you start a small business. The list goes on and on.
FACT: Buying a new pair of Air Jordans is NOT an investment. It only adds to the wealth of Nike and Michael Jordan. Consumption can certainly be a part of your financial plan, but it can’t be the only part. Before you give all of your money away to the big white companies that enjoy making fun of black people, ask yourself: What am I putting money, time and energy into that is going to give me a good payoff tomorrow? What ventures are out there that I can put a few hundred dollars into today that will pay me a few thousand dollars back in a few years? Malcolm X once said that the future belongs to those who prepare for it today. In other words, he was saying that you want to think like an investor.
8) Find a way to own something: America is run by people who own things, not by those who rent them. So, whether it’s your first home, a small business or even a website, find something that you can obtain that belongs to you. Ownership also allows you to get into a financial situation where your money is working for you. You shouldn’t be breaking your back into old age in order to pay the bills. The thing I’ve loved most about owning things is that it breeds an awesomely powerful sense that I control my own environment. I am not an extraordinarily brave man, but I don’t wake up with the same trepidation in my heart that is felt by many of my scholarly colleagues. Much of this “liquid courage” comes from the high of owning my own “stuff.”
Another community benefit of breeding the value of ownership in our children is that this is the ONLY cure for the black unemployment crisis affecting America. Part of the reason that black people (especially black men) can’t get jobs is because we are begging for jobs from white people. White people are never going to hire us before they hire other white people, that just doesn’t happen in America. So, the best way to get access to an opportunity is to create the opportunity yourself. We must control our own economic destiny.
9) Never allow yourself to be infected with the disease of laziness: I worry about those who are afraid of hard work. Laziness and complacency are death traps when it comes to reaching your goals or building wealth. By always attacking your situation over and over again, constantly reassessing your targets and adding good old-fashioned hustle to your game, you’d be amazed at how many obstacles you can overcome.
He who hustles hardest will almost always end up ahead. Hustlers also tend to have the best luck. Never waste your life being timid, passive or unfocused. That’s what they want you to be.
10) Choose your mate and family situation wisely: Bad family planning is one of the easiest ways for any person to find themselves in the poor house. For men, choosing the pretty girl who drains you financially can ruin your economic life. For women, it might mean getting so excited about a marriage proposal that you find yourself strapped ont0 an economic dud. Additionally, having children out of wedlock can be a financial train wreck for both the man and the woman involved in this tempting sexual transaction. For men, child support courts DESTROY your bank account. For most women, the struggles of being a single mom and working full-time are enough to drive you insane. Choosing the right mate and having your kids in the right way can open the door to wealth building and a powerful intergenerational transfer. Doing it the wrong way can leave you frustrated, broke and embarrassed. Don’t make the wrong choice.
Here’s a bonus commandment:
11) Avoid the legal system if at all possible: The legal, educational and healthcare systems in America are the biggest financial drains imaginable. Thousands of families give away all of their home equity trying to fight a losing legal battle against a criminal justice system that is hellbent on locking up as many black men as possible. Universities leave students swimming in debt after receiving a mediocre education. I won’t even go into how the healthcare system has manipulated the price of drugs to the point that almost no one can afford them.
Some of this can’t be avoided, but it can be managed. When it comes to the legal system, it is a good idea to try to stay out of it. This might mean avoiding unecessary legal problems that come from violating the law. Educationally, it might mean choosing a state university over a private school or pushing your kids to make good grades so they become eligible for scholarships. At the very least, the child can share the financial burden which might come from massive student loans.
This list of tools for economic empowerment is not at all exhaustive, but is a start in getting the right mindset for wealth building. We should be sick and tired of black people always starting over, always feeling left behind, and allowing ourselves to be trained to throw away every asset that we have in our possession. Oppression is real, we know that. But we should also know that your oppressor is almost NEVER going to voluntarily stop oppressing you. So, if you’re waiting for racist institutions to give you what you need to survive, you’re going to be waiting a long time.
Our economic future belongs to us and any goal is within reach of a community that is determined. But the undeniable and consistent fact is that we must grab this destiny ourselves. No one is going to give it to us.
Dr Boyce Watkins is a Finance PhD and the founder of The Black Wealth Bootcamp. To take a class with Dr Watkins, please visit TheBlackWealthBootcamp.com