Michelle Obama encouraged the graduates of Bowie State University on Friday morning to live up to the legacy of their university’s founders and the leaders of the civil rights movement by promoting the importance of education in the black community.
“Just think about this for a moment — for generations, in many parts of this country, it was illegal for black people to get an education,” Obama told the predominantly black crowd, referring to the period in which Bowie State was founded. “Slaves caught reading or writing could be beaten within an inch of their lives.”
The creation of the small school that eventually became Bowie State University was an “eloquent act of defiance,” she told the crowd of about 600 graduates and several thousand of their supporters at the Comcast Center in College Park.
Obama encouraged the students to keep a hunger to learn, quoting abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who said education “means the uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of truth, the light by which men can only be made free.”
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