African Americans will make up 11.9 percent of Harvard's accepted class for next fall, and while that's being touted as a record high for the school, it's actually right in line with previous years. Of the accepted students in the last record class, three years ago, 11.8 percent were African American, almost exactly the same.
Harvard's lack of racial diversity came into focus this year with the "I, Too, Am Harvard" movement, a Tumblr, play, video, and hashtag with the focus of "highlighting the faces and voices of black students at Harvard." That movement featured multiracial students pointing out the ignorant and sometimes-racist remarks of classmates, with statements like "You aren't black on the inside."
Though there's no evidence that the class of 2018's record numbers are a reaction to that negative attention, the higher rate of African American students is praiseworthy. "There was a time when black students were not allowed to attend Ivy Leagues universities," Huffington Post writes. "This year, Harvard University proved just how far they’ve come from that part of their history."
But the idea that Harvard has somehow passed a major milestone on diversity is a bit overstated. Except for a dip to 10.2 percent for the class of 2016, the percentage of the accepted class of students that is African American has stayed relatively flat over the past five years.
For the class of 2015, African Americans made up 11.8 percent, and the class of 2017 was made up of 11.5 percent African Americans. The class of 2018's rate of 11.9 percent is only a tad above those, and may turn out to be just a one-year increase.