Black History Month: UMES, A look back
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. – Picture this, the year is 1886, and the Delaware Conference Academy, which would be later known as the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, opened its doors in Princess Anne.
Little did the town know, it would be the beginning of an educational powerhouse on the shore.
“It started with 2 or 3 teachers and about 13 students right here on this land, not in this particular place we are right now but in a stretch of land that is now over 1,000 acres,” said Dr. James White, UMES Alumni and president of the National Alumni Association for UMES.
That small assembly of the school’s population would grow, first joining the University system of Maryland, and then eventually re-branding as the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 1970.
But before that new decade began, the world faced a massive civil rights movement, where African -American students at UMES would use their voices to be heard and seen as equal. That same fight continues even today.
“We still have to sing our praises, we still have to raise our voices, we still have to let the squeaky wheel be heard so that we can get the attention that we deserve,” Dr. White said.
So how is the fight for equality kept alive today? Dr. James White says the key is keep telling their story, to keep showing them that UMES deserves the funding that any other university in the state does.
“If UMES had the funding that College Park has, that other institutions in USM have you couldn’t touch us,” says Dr. White. “I will put my degree against any individual from any college anywhere in the United States of America.”
Now during black history month, White says UMES offers the knowledge for why this month is important and why it is celebrated.
Dr. White says, “My people are lost for a lack of knowledge. Black History Month gives them knowledge. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore gives them knowledge and gives them an opportunity to advance. HBCU’s graduate more black scholars than any other institution across the nation.”
The University of Maryland Eastern Shore now enrolls over 2,500 students. It sits on over 1,000 acres and offers degrees in 38 bachelors’, 14 masters’, and eight doctoral programs.
The institution has also been visited by and played home to many African-Americans well-known in the civil rights movement like Dr. Martin Luther King and the late Congressman John Lewis.