‘There’s a Connection to All of This’: Bomb Threats Affecting HBCUs Have Students and Alumni Concerned

The FBI is investigating a series of bomb threats lodged toward HBCUs across the U.S. The threats have students and faculty alike on heightened alert.

“I follow all of the HBCUs, and all of them are posting about they’re receiving bomb threats and telling students to shelter in place, not come on campus and they’re doing everything virtually,” said Leslie Jones, who’s the founder of the Hundred and Seven, and organization that advocates for HBCUs.

More than a dozen HBCUs have been impacted since Feb. 1. The bomb threats appear to follow a pattern of an anonymous person issuing the bomb threat to the schools around 3 in the morning, although the exact methods of communications have not been disclosed by many schools involved. The schools then contact local police to sweep the campuses for any bombs. None of the threats has led to the discovery of an explosive device so far.

Many of the schools notified students and staff urging them to shelter in place, some schools sent messages totaling the number of sweeps conducted by police, and in the case of Fort Valley University in middle Georgia, students and staff were told, “until further notice, they will be required to use their ID cards to access buildings on campus.”

Some HBCU presidents went a bit further with their statements including Jackson State University President, Carolyn Meyers who called the threats, “a shameless attempt to dampen our sense of safety and freedom.” Spelman College President Mary Campbell, the president of Spelman College in Atlanta, said, “The threats against HBCU campuses are appalling and raise serious concerns about racially targeted hate-based violence in our communities.”

Jones says among HBCU alumni and parent groups there is concern the frequency of the threats may cause the general public to become desensitized to the potential danger of the threats. She pointed to the long history of threats of bombings of African-Americans and Black institutions such as the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, as proof threats toward African-Americans weigh heavy on the mind of the Black community.

“You don’t want it to be something where you keep getting these bomb threats and nothing happens, and people start becoming disengaged and they don’t take it serious anymore then something does happen,” Jones said.

Wednesday afternoon, the FBI released a statement on its investigation into the bomb threats. The agency’s statement says in part, “this investigation is of the highest priority for the Bureau and involves more than 20 FBI field offices across the country. These threats are being investigated as racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and hate crimes.”

The FBI has identified six juveniles as persons of interest in the bomb threats, the agency also said in its statement on Wednesday. No word of any arrests at the time of this report.

Impacted HBCUs include: Spelman College, Philander Smith College, Arkansas Baptist College, Howard University, Morgan State University, Fort Valley State University, Kentucky State University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Jackson State University, Edward Waters University, Alcorn State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Rust College, Tougaloo College

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