Detroit re-establishes the state’s first Historically Black College

by Erika DuBose
detroit hbcu
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Michigan is bringing back the state’s first college devoted to Black Americans. In a sweeping piece of legislation signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Detroit will be home to a design-focused HBCU.

The previous Michigan HBCU, the Lewis College of Business, shuttered in 2013. Now D’Wayne Edwards, the founder of the Pensole Design Academy in Portland, Oregon, announced plans to start a design school at the former site.

In a statement, Mr. Edwards said, “I am proud to play a part in helping reopen the Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design in Detroit. I am committed to expanding educational opportunities for Michiganders across our state to put Michigan first.”

Major investment in majority-Black city of Detroit

While the state of Michigan is only 14% Black, Detroit is another story. Roughly 79% of residents of the major metropolis are Black.

The new HBCU is not the only initiative to bring opportunities to underserved Detroit residents.  On top of supporting the HBCU, the Gilbert Family Foundation has also pledged $500 million to promote economic projects for Detroit residents.

“I applaud the Governor’s commitment to developing a diverse talent pipeline here in Michigan by signing this legislation into law that would rebuild and reopen the Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design,” Jennifer Gilbert, co-founder of the Gilbert Family Foundation, told the Detroit News. “Dan and I are proud to support this historic institution, which will provide generations of Detroiters equitable access to opportunity for the jobs of the future.”

Governor Whitmer signed the legislation re-opening the HBCU on Tuesday, after a push from several Michigan Democratic representatives. In a statement, Governor Whitmer said, “I am proud to play a part in helping reopen the Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design in Detroit. I am committed to expanding educational opportunities for Michiganders across our state to put Michigan first.” 

Others across the state are cheering the new revival, the first re-opening of a HBCU in the country. According to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, “Detroit now has the first HBCU anywhere to reopen. As a predominantly Black city, this helps send a clear message that we are building one city, for everyone with opportunity for everyone.”

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