At North Carolina A&T State University, students hurry to and from class, iPod cords draped over their shoulders, past a small courtyard where a painful history is pockmarked in four brick slabs.
There, the university’s civil rights legacy is visible in bullet holes in the bricks, marking the place where the National Guard opened fire in 1969, killing a student. The old buildings at the Greensboro campus are gone, replaced by four modern residence halls named for the men who, as A&T students, went to a Woolworth lunch counter in 1960 and gave birth to the sit-in movement.
A&T, like the state’s four other taxpayer-supported historically black universities, celebrates its historic mission to educate a population that had no other opportunities in the segregated South. But the schools that are so defined by heritage are now searching for a formula to stay viable in a new era of scarce resources and unparalleled competition for students.