Historically Black Colleges receive bomb threats at the start of Black History Month

On Jan. 31, 2022, seven historically Black colleges received bomb threats from an unknown sender. On Feb. 1, 2022, ten more HBCUs received bomb threats, and throughout the following first week of Black History Month, at least 17 colleges in total received bomb threats. In response, many colleges and universities shut down in-person classes and closed campuses, disrupting education for students throughout the nation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States government were both made aware of the threats and sent out teams to investigate each campus that had received these bomb threats. No bombs were found on any campus following this range of threats. 

The investigation “is of the highest priority for the bureau and involves more than 20 FBI field offices across the country,” said the FBI in a statement released regarding the ongoing investigation into the source of the bomb threats. According to the FBI, these threats are being investigated as hate crimes. So far, no arrests have been made, although the FBI says that it has multiple suspects. 

“Obviously, there’s the disruption if classes are canceled or students are evacuated from buildings,” said Reanna Ursin, an English teacher and Xavier University alumna. “But there’s also the emotional disruption of questioning your safety, as well as parents second-guessing whether their child is safe there. Black people are aware of the history of violence against them in this country – the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, the pictures of Ruby Bridges walking to kindergarten as violently angry people shout at her. You can go down the road and, at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, sit at a lunch counter and imagine what it was like to have white people scream obscenities and threaten violence. Some people might think of the bomb threats as a ‘prank,’ but we can’t afford to treat them that way.”  

The trauma that many students experience, especially at historically Black colleges and universities, is something that affects those students for years to come and impacts their ability to further their education. The response that many universities have had to these bomb threats may also be a stressor for many students. 

“There’s probably going to be a lot more police and security presence on those campuses,” says Sabrina Johnson, a Black faculty affinity group leader, “and I think for some people that portrays an image of security, but I think, especially for Black students, the history of policing and police brutality makes it so nobody wants to walk through their campus and see extra police, extra security, and so I worry that may be an effect that students have to experience.” 

Historically Black colleges are supposed to be safe spaces for Black students and provide a safe environment free of the racism and white supremacy that plagues the world. The added trauma of having a safe space infested with fear and racism, along with the terror of being threatened with bombs, is monumental.