The Samuel D. Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity, and Justice | GSE | Rutgers

The Proctor Institute and Rutgers CMSI Team Up with the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education to Release Report on Black Women Student Voters


Brandy Jones  | | 848-932-0788

New Brunswick, N.J., October 13, 2021 — The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity, and Justice(Proctor Institute), Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI), and the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) are proud to announce the release of, “The Power of Black Women Student Voters.” This report highlights Black women voting rights advocates and innovators on college campuses -- throughout history and in the present day. It also brings together a portrait of the political experiences of Black women in college through profiles of historically important leaders and events, interview accounts of currently enrolled students, and voting data. 

“It’s important to be aware of the power that Black women student voters have,” shared Ayana Hardaway, one of the authors of this report and a Visiting Scholar at the Proctor Institute. “When Black women come together to advocate for an issue, they are not only influencing the students on their prospective campuses, but they become role models for the future generations of voters.” 

Using data from IDHE’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), the report emphasizes how Black women continue to exemplify engaged citizenship in the U.S. Black women college students vote at high rates compared to their peers across academic fields of study. The report also provides research on the discrepancies between voter turnout at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs).  

“This report gives much-needed space and visibility to the efforts of Black women, especially young Black women, proving once again that we are not only the backbone of a well-functioning democracy but the brains and brawn behind it as well,” shared Tamieka Atkins, community activist, leader and executive director of ProGeorgia, Georgia’s state-based non-partisan voter engagement advocacy organization. 

Black women have a legacy of participating in grassroots causes and leading social movements. They have protested against police brutality, gun violence, and voter suppression. “Beginning with early activists such as Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Shirley Chisholm, Black women have consistently been at the forefront of political engagement efforts. This report centers the voices and experiences of Black women college students, who like the activists who preceded them, acknowledge their civic duty, honor the privilege associated with voting, and stand up against injustices,“ shared Brandy Jones, one of the authors of this report and Director for Programs and Communications at the CMSI and the Proctor Institute. 

This research was informed by the theoretical perspectives of Black Feminist Thought (BFT), Kimberlé Crenshaw’s intersectionality, and the politics of empowerment used as tools to examine oppression and resistance. The authors use a theoretical framework aimed at understanding the motivations of intergenerational Black women voters, including first-time college voters. 

“Research shows that Black women play an outsized role in influencing civic life,” shared Marybeth Gasman, one of the authors of this report and Executive Director of the CMSI and Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Chair. “Whether at an HBCU or PWI, there is a slightly higher percentage of Black women participating in voting on college campuses, which serves as evidence that Black women are exemplars in the pursuit of a more equitable future.”  

The report concludes with recommendations for colleges and universities, voting organizations, researchers, and college students. A few of the key takeaways from the report include ways to create opportunities for Black women on campus to join in voting organizations, ways to involve and listen to Black women to ensure that voting strategies are inclusive, and strategies for engaging Black women in sharing voter activism stories. 

“We are grateful to our coauthors for sharing with us their wisdom and perspectives on the history and the lived experiences that bring richer context and meaning to our data.” shared Dave Brinker, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education and one of the authors of the report. 

Read the report here.

About the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions 

The Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) brings together researchers and practitioners from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions. CMSI’s goals include: elevating the educational contributions of MSIs; ensuring that they are a part of national conversations; bringing awareness to the vital role MSIs play in the nation’s economic development; increasing the rigorous scholarship of MSIs; connecting MSIs’ academic and administrative leadership to promote reform initiatives; and strengthening efforts to close educational achievement gaps among disadvantaged communities. The Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions is part of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity and Justice (Proctor Institute) at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. For further information about CMSI, please visit

About the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity, and Justice 

The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity, and Justice (Proctor Institute) is a national center that focuses on issues of leadership, equity, and justice within the context of higher education. It brings together researchers, practitioners and community members to work toward the common goals of diversifying leadership, enhancing equity, and fostering justice for all. The Proctor Institute is located at Rutgers University—New Brunswick, in the Graduate School of Education and houses the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI). Learn more at

About the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education  

Part of Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) is an applied research center focused on college and university student political learning and engagement in democracy. Our mission is to inform and shift higher education’s priorities, practices, and culture to strengthen democracy and advance social and political equity. We focus explicitly on “all things political” on college and university campuses. We accomplish our goals by conducting research, producing practical resources, supporting institutions and the higher education community, and advocacy. IDHE’s signature initiative, the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), is a service to colleges and universities that provides participating institutions with tailored reports of their students’ voting rates. Launched in 2013 with 250 campuses, the study now serves more than 1,200 institutions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Monday, October 11, 2021
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