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Black History in Review: Student Interviews

By Jelisa Gonzalez | March 4, 2024 

Photo Credit: FreePik

James Baldwin once said “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” 

The month of February kicked off the start of Black History Month where we commemorate the advancements made for the Black Population in the U.S. and around the world. Recounting the history of revolutionaries and civil rights activists that have paved the way for Black people in North America. 

When most people refer to Black History, we remember the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X who both fought for equal rights as well as Black empowerment. From the Abolitionist Movements, the Underground Railroad, to the “Separate but Equal” doctrine and beyond. Supreme Court Cases such as Dred Scott v. Sandford and Plessy v. Ferguson served as significant milestones for equality; one of the many instances demonstrating how far civil rights have been fought for by leaders and organizers in the civil rights movement. 

Last month, I went around our UAlbany student campus asking Black students the question: “What does Black History mean to you?” along with other questions. I am of hispanic heritage and I’m aware that my experience differs from that of my Black peers. I wanted to understand their perspective and hear their thoughts. These are their responses:

Taylor Jordan, a senior majoring in Journalism, who’s also the President of the National Congress of Black Women, stated “Black History, to me, is all about uplifting everyone of the diaspora. We all come from Africa, we’re all descendents of the motherland, so it’s really just uplifting every Black person I can find, giving them a platform to speak about their issues and supporting their mental health.”

Another student, Ethan Webb, a sophomore studying Informatics said, “Black History predominantly is a time where, I think, most people try to reflect and look back on the success and the plights that Black people had to go through, especially in America. I think a lot of our accomplishments and things that we go through sometimes fall on deaf ears and sometimes doesn’t get the highlight that it really deserves.”

“This month is our opportunity to really go back and to see where we come from…throughout everything that we’ve been put against, that we’re still thriving…we’re still succeeding and we’re still reaching places that other people have counted us out for for so long,” Webb said.

I also asked the question of, “Are there any particular contributions or achievements made by Black Americans or Black people around the world that inspire or move you and why?”

Jenny Verrier, a junior, studying Psychology, said, “I love looking up to people the likes of James Baldwin, and Angela Davis. I think I particularly look to the Black queer ones and there's way more than we think you know – the ones who are pushed to the floor, you know, MLK, Malcolm X – Angela Davis is Queer and so is James Baldwin and they’re both revolutionaries, they’re both radicals and I think that's who I gravitate more towards the most. Yeah, Queer Black revolutionaries, I think, inspire me the most.” 

To personalize the questions a bit more, a final question I asked was how it felt to be a Black student at UAlbany.

Favour Omotoso, a sophomore majoring in Business Administration said, “I feel like being a Black student at UA is like a win-lose situation. I feel like with the orgs we’ve been able to form a community where the black students feel welcome but with the school itself, there’s still that divide between the black students and the school, so it’s a win-lose situation. That’s how I feel.”

Gabrielle Holmes, a sophomore majoring in Finance stated, “I feel that as much as we joke about this school being an HBCU amongst the Black population, the actions of the university does not reflect on a school that cares about the Black population. We only really have our student orgs and we only have our Black student body to lean on, we don’t have a university to lean on, so that's how I would say our experience as a student is, it's very separated from the university.”

According to, a study suggested that historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are more successful in graduating Black students than non-HBCUs. Specifically, “Black students who initially enroll in HBCUs are 40% more likely to earn bachelor's degrees than students who do not attend HBCUs.” 

Black History Month serves as a reminder of how different my black peers’ experiences are from my own. Getting to know their experiences and thoughts has been an experience that allows me to appreciate how much growth and understanding can come from opening up conversation and allowed me to understand some of the intricacies of Black History.


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