LOGAN — On the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the U.S. Census Bureau released statistics highlighting progress in African-American education since the 1960s.
At the end of the 1940s, King wrote: “It seems to me that education has a double function to fulfill in the life of man and in society: one is utility and the other culture.
“Education must enable man to become more efficient, to attain with increasing ease the legitimate aims of his life.
“Education must also train people to think quickly, decisively and effectively,” added the future civil rights leader. “…Education should be about sifting and weighing evidence, discerning true from false, real from unreal, and fact from fiction.”
The total high school graduation rate in the United States in 1960 was about 65%. By comparison, the high school completion rate for African American students was about 25.7% at that time.
Due to these low high school completion rates and economic factors, there were only about 306,000 African American students in 1964.
Despite the best efforts of the civil rights movement led by Dr. King in the 1960s and progressive legislation passed by Congress during that decade, only about 5% of African Americans over the age of 25 in the U.S. population had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 1970.
At that time, however, only 7.7% of the total US population had college degrees.
Today, according to census officials, nearly 90% of all African-American students graduate from high school, and the number of those students who went on to graduate school rose to 2.85 million in 2020.
The percentage of African-American college graduates in the U.S. population rose to 27.8%, from 37.5% of the total U.S. population with a college degree.
But a significantly higher percentage of African American women were enjoying the benefits of higher education than their male counterparts in 2020.
Census officials report that 30.5% of African American women over the age of 25 in the U.S. population now have a bachelor’s degree or higher. In comparison, only 24.7% of African American men hold a college degree.
Dr. King also strongly advocated for better schools and better access to educational resources during his civil rights campaigns. Census officials suggest that educational reforms inspired by his memory contributed to a strong representation of African Americans in national elections.
In 1964, for example, almost 70% of all American voters turned out at the polls, compared to 58.5% of African American voters. In 2020, however, the percentage of all voters actually fell to 66.8%, while the percentage of African Americans voting rose to 62.6%.
These statistics were provided by the Census Bureau’s 2020 Current Population Survey.