In the fall of 1999, Camille Z. Charles and colleagues began collecting data from 3,924 students at 28 elite colleges and universities in what became known as the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen (NLSF). Through a combination of surveys and interviews, the group checked in at regular intervals to assess students’ academic, mental, and social well-being.
In a new book, Charles and her co-authors mine the NLSF to explore responses from more than 1,000 Black students, a rising generation of the professional class. “Young, Gifted, and Diverse: Origins of the New Black Elite” complicates assumptions about both a monolithic Black experience and the future of Black political solidarity.
Charles sat down with Penn Today to discuss the increasing diversity of Black college students and why it’s important to stop stereotyping and start recognizing that diverse groups have diverse needs.
Charles is the Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor in the Social Sciences, professor of sociology, Africana studies and education in the School of Arts & Sciences; faculty co-director of Penn First Plus; and director of the Center for Africana Studies Summer Institute for Pre-Freshmen. Two of her co-authors, Kimberly Torres and Rory Kramer, are Penn alumni and Charles’ former Ph.D. students.