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Joe Biden’s Launching “HBCU Students For Biden” As He Works To Fight Off Bernie Sanders

The national effort to recruit and organize for Biden on campuses comes as Sanders has emerged as a potent force on HBCUs.

Posted on January 15, 2020, at 12:22 p.m. ET

Brian Snyder / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden’s campaign is rolling out a new outreach program on historically black colleges as younger, engaged voters have broadly been drawn to Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The Biden campaign is leading the effort to recruit and organize supporters on campuses across the country. The campaign announced that three student leaders — Adunola Rachel Osinuga of Texas Southern University in Houston; Nia Page, the Student Government Association president at Spelman College in Atlanta; and William Fairfax of Claflin University in South Carolina — will serve as cochairs for "HBCU Students for Biden."

The announcement comes as Biden surrogates are launching a bus tour in South Carolina ahead of what could be a potentially lethal stretch of voting in Iowa and New Hampshire, mostly white states where Biden enjoys strong support but hasn’t yet drawn enough excitement to pull away from some of his Democratic challengers. Biden has maintained strong support among black voters.

"Joe Biden has always been, and continues to be central to civil rights activism and social justice, and produce outstanding young leaders. ... The campaign is proud to have student leaders on HBCUs across the country organizing and volunteering for our campaign, and their strength will help us win the nomination and beat Trump,” campaign aide Kamau M. Marshall said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

HBCUs have been a quandary for national Democrats — and attention has turned increasingly toward them in 2020. At many HBCUs, students are upset and impatient with the lack of racial progress and economic opportunities. Students attend institutions that lack resources (unlike well-known HBCUs like Howard University and Spelman College) — many are barely scraping by, sustained by the educators and administrators. Biden, Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg have all released plans to specifically address funding issues for HBCUs and students who attend them; Biden’s proposal includes a $70 billion investment.

Sanders has emerged as a potent force on HBCUs, with strong support among young black voters nationally. In recent polling from the Washington Post, Sanders led all candidates in support among black voters under 35, while Biden led with black voters overall and among older age groups.

Osinuga, one of the student cochairs, said that Biden’s affection for HBCUs came through in the way that he saw the hope, vibrancy, and possibility of HBCUs.

“I don’t discount elderly individuals,” Osinuga told BuzzFeed News over the phone. “I think he has a very wise attitude in the way he deals with people of my generation, and he’s someone who has had a lot of experience in politics. So you have to give credit where credit is due.”

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.