White guy applying for a faculty position at a historically black college?

I’m a white guy. I’m beginning my job search for a faculty position in an undergraduate institution. I live in the Triangle area of North Carolina and there are three excellent historically black schools (NC state, St. Augustines, Shaw) in Raleigh.

How much of a disadvantage am I at if I apply to these schools?

Is it obnoxious in any way for me to even apply?

I totally respect the tradition of historically black colleges/universities and I support whatever efforts they might take to preserve the emphasis on having blacks as faculty/administration. I just want to know the facts before I consider applying.

Thanks in advance…

You won’t be at much of a disadvantage if any at all. It depends on the field but they will have plenty of white faculty. There simply aren’t enogh black Ph.D.'s in some fields to serve the whole country. Both my mother and stepfather taught classes at Grambling University in Louisiana and the atmosphere was a little different but they have plenty of white faculty.

This is a hijack, but I’m pretty sure NC State isn’t a historically black university.

It gets referred to that way in the media so it seemed appropriate to include it on the list; I remember being surprised by that designation as well…

Ok. I’d just never heard it referred to that way…Elizabeth City, NCA&T and Fayetteville, yes, but as far as I know, NC State wasn’t integrated until 1956.

Shouldn’t it be an historically black college?

Yes b/c the accent is on the second syl LAB le.

Perhaps if you’re a (Chief) Pedant. :wink:

Moved to In My Humble Opinion

Gfactor, General Questions Moderator

Are you sure you’re not thinking of North Carolina Central University?

(An easy mistake to make–I lived in the Triangle for most of my life, and I still had to Google to remind myself of what the slight name difference was)


I was surprised to see this as well - my historically white dad has been both a student and a teacher there, FWIW.

Entirely possible – I’m still a Triangle newbie.

I have no specific knowledge as to your question, but as a fan of the work of Howard Zinn, I know his early teaching career was at Spelman College, an HBC. So it’s not unprecedented.

I am about 99% sure you’re thinking of NC Central.

No, it’s certainly not obnoxious to apply, although in my admittedly limited experience (two years on the job market in English), it seems to be somewhat difficult to get interviews at HBCUs if you don’t have any prior experience with them. If you do have relevant experience and / or a particular reason for wanting to work at an HBCU, I’d suggest stressing this in your cover letter.

I have “direct knowledge” of the situation. There is some attempt to attract faculty that reflect the student body. But, for some fields (as mentioned) that just isn’t possible.

So don’t worry about it. Either they’ll be interested in you for the right reasons or they won’t.

But … people are people. Prejudices do exist. May or may not be a problem. Nothing you can do about it.

I know several faculty members at NC State. It’s just a regular school.

Note that HBCs exist at two levels. The Howards and Spelmans are well run, have solid finances and so on. And then there is the rest. Barely make the payroll some months. Morris Brown, for all practical purposes, went under a few years back due to gross mismangement causing a financial meltdown.

(When we interviewed faculty, the students would complain that most of the applicants were “not like them.” To which I pointed out that none of the recent graduates in our department went on to get a PhD. I.e., if you don’t like it, you do something to change it and stop complaining. Had zilch affect of course.)

I’ve researched HBCUs and visited several that had majority White faculties. The older faculty at the campuses seemed to really love the institutional culture. Younger faculty were often more critical - obviously, pay is not the highest, students often struggle to gain entry, and sometimes stay on campus.

I had an interesting conversation with some faculty members - mostly White - decrying the lack of African American role models on the campus, especially among the men. I think you would have to be understanding of the fact that many of the students at HBCUs, especially outside of the Spelman-Morehouse-Howard-Tuskegee-Hampton vanguard, may be underprepared for college work, will be first-generation collegians, and have a difficult time adapting to college. HBCU experience would be great, but working in teaching-centered institutions and in majority Black environments would be a significant advantage.

HBCUs, by the way, boast some of the most racially diverse faculties. The NCES reported across all 104 HBCUs, the faculty were about 50 percent White and 50 percent people of color (I think this was from the 2004 NCES dataset).