HBCU American Baptist College recently received an approximate $3 million grant from the U.S. government to fund new technology programs.
Awarded to the college by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the grant is the largest fund to be given to the school in its history. The new two-year fund is part of President Biden’s Connecting Minority Communities pilot program.
Announced in January, the new program awards grants to a number of different HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs. Through the program, these colleges and universities will have the ability to upgrade technology in their classrooms, teach digital literacy and build community technology hubs.
“For communities within a fifteen-mile radius of the campus, American Baptist College will become a Technological Hub broadening connectivity and possibilities for students and families experiencing digital poverty,” said the President of the HBCU, Dr. Forrest E. Harris, per the program’s website. “As an HBCU, the resource of this grant allows us to bring together connectivity, education and technology, creating broadband internet access for online education, health care information, and economic opportunities.”
“This grant will help advance our College’s mission to educate students about social justice, equity, advocacy, and leadership in the communities they serve,” he added.
Founded in 1924, the American Baptist College originally began as a school that taught theological education to train Black Baptist ministers. Founded by National Baptist Leaders alongside Dr. O.L. Hailey, the school became known in the 1960s for its role in the Civil Rights Movement.
Under the guide of professors J.F. Grimmett, the Rev. Kelly Miller Smith, and Rev Dr. C.T. Vivian, many of the students at the American Baptist College became involved in the Nashville Student Sit-Ins as the HBCU became a popular place for organizing social justice movements.
A notable number of the students went on to become influential figures of the Civil Rights Movement.
Enrolled at the college at the age of 20, Dr. Bernard Lafayette studied theology at the school in the 1960s. Also involved in the Freedom Rides, Lafayette was notably part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, helping organize the Selma Voting Rights Movement.
He was joined alongside his fellow classmate, the late Representative John Lewis, who obtained his BA from the American Baptist College.
Also one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, Lewis served as the Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Recognized as one of the “Big Six” leaders involved in the Civil Rights Movement, Lewis was a keynote speaker at the March on Washington at the age of 23. In 1987, the civil rights icon was elected as the representative for Georgia’s 5th district, serving as the representative for 33 years until his death in 2020.