At the beginning of Black History Month, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the nation received bomb threats on their campuses, disrupting their activities and trying to intimidate their communities. Spelman College, a historically Black women’s college in Atlanta, has received three separate bomb threats since the start of the year.
NPR reported that at least 20 HBCUs received bomb threats on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, including but not limited to Howard University, Morgan State University and Edward Waters University. Spelman College also received a bomb threat at the start of February, which followed a previous bomb threat two weeks before and preceded another threat on the morning of Feb. 8.
Despite the sheer number of bomb threats, all have been unsubstantiated and no bombs have been found following campus searches.
Despite the lack of physical damage, these threats still frighten the communities they target. “I’m uneasy,” said Calvert White, a junior at Jackson State University in Mississippi, to CNN, “I think that the threats aren’t individual or coincidental — that it’s a clear attack on Black students who choose to go to Black schools.”
White’s university is also an HBCU and received a bomb threat during the early morning on Feb. 1.
Professors and parents of students at HBCUs also fear for the safety of everyone in their campus communities, and the intimidation students face as they pursue their education.
Most HBCUs issued shelter-in-place orders following their respective threats and initiated sweeps of their campus to locate the purported bombs.
“[The Feb.1 threat] was very disturbing … It made me feel as though I am not safe,” said Saigan Boyd, a student at Spelman College, to WGCL.
“I’m just ultimately tired of dealing with this level of unsolicited hatred. I’m just tired of being terrorized like how my grandparents were,” Boyd said.
In response to the numerous bomb threats, Spelman administration has also spoken out about the incidents.
“These threats are despicable. They are designed to make us feel fearful and vulnerable,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, president of Spelman College, after the Feb. 1 bomb threat. She also informed students in this message about the assistance from the Atlanta Police Department and Georgia Bureau of Investigation for handling these incidents, and the support promised by both Georgia senators and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.
On Feb. 8, Spelman College received their third bomb threat of the year, and canceled classes for the day.
After sweeping campus once more, the college resumed classes the next day and President Campbell reminded students of the counseling and religious resources available to them. On the day of the threat, the Southern Poverty Law Centers met with HBCU leaders to discuss the attacks, and they were able to address the larger issues at hand motivating these threats. While it is fortunate that none of these threats came to fruition, HBCUs across the nation still have to deal with the prejudice that motivated the actions.
As President Campbell told students after the second threat: “History repeats itself. There is nothing new in the attempt to use threats of violence to hold our community hostage and disable us with fear. We are grateful for the compassionate public response. We recognize, too, that compassion must be joined by resolve. We need public resolve to marshal the resources to find and bring to justice the perpetrators.”