At least five historically Black colleges and universities in Mississippi received bomb threats early Tuesday morning, prompting lockdowns and virtual classes on the first day of Black History Month.
Among the schools that reported receiving threats were Jackson State University, Alcorn State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Tougaloo College and Rust College. Hinds Community College closed its locations in Hinds County which also received threats this morning, according to its Facebook page.
The only HBCU in Mississippi that did not receive a bomb threat Tuesday morning was Coahoma Community College. Marriel Hardy, chief communications officer at Coahoma, wrote in an email that the college has discussed the possibility of a bomb threat and revisited its emergency preparedness plans in precaution.
“Since these occurrences started several weeks ago, we’ve been ever vigilant,” Hardy wrote.
This is the latest in a series of bomb threats reported at HBCUs across the country. Schools that reported receiving threats yesterday include: Howard University in Washington D.C.; Delaware State University in Dover; and Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida. All those schools issued all-clears by late Monday afternoon, the Washington Post reported.
It is still unclear if these threats are connected, according to multiple news outlets.
Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson, who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement Tuesday that he has “engaged with the FBI and DHS about these threats to HBCUs” and is “committed to working with HBCU leaders to get them the answers they deserve.”
In Lorman, Alcorn State University received a bomb threat at 3:59 a.m., Maxine Greenleaf, the chief communications officer, told Mississippi Today. The administration placed the main campus under lockdown and is working to issue an all-clear, she said.
“Our students are safe,” Greenleaf wrote. “As soon as law enforcement declares an all clear, we will send an update to the campus community.”
Administration at Rust College issued an all-clear at 10 a.m. after sweeping the campus with “bomb detection canines,” according to a press release. The administration discussed the bomb threat on a call this morning, Mary LeSueur, director of public relations, told Mississippi Today, and plans to resume normal campus operations tomorrow.
Valley State moved classes virtual after a sweep by campus police deputies from the Leflore and Washington county sheriff’s departments found the bomb threat to be unsubstantiated, Donell Maxie, MVSU’s communications director, told the Greenwood Commonwealth. Valley State’s guardhouse had received the bomb threat this morning, the university wrote on its Facebook page around 7 a.m. Officials had issued a shelter-in-place order.
Tougaloo College and Jackson State both gave the all-clear this morning. Tougaloo is keeping classes virtual for Tuesday and has instructed students and employees not to commute to campus, according to its website. On Twitter, Jackson State said the campus would remain open “with a heightened presence of law enforcement as a precautionary measure.” Officials postponed on-campus COVID-19 vaccinations until next Tuesday.
“Jackson State University takes any threats to the campus community’s safety seriously and remains vigilant in maintaining the safety and protection of the JSU community,” the university wrote on Twitter.
On social media, students, parents and alumni noted these threats came on the first day of Black History Month and at a time when HBCUs are gaining prominence. In an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education called the bomb threats “one of the clearest examples of hate crimes based on race.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Valley State and Rust College issued an all-clear Tuesday mid-morning. After publishing, Hinds Community College, which initially said it did not receive a specific threat, announced its four locations in Hinds County had received bomb threats.
Molly Minta covers higher education for Mississippi Today, in partnership with Open Campus.