Angry social media users flew into an uproar Monday evening after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a statement that some said ignored the context under which historically black universities were created.
The statement called historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) “real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” and came shortly after President Donald Trump held a meeting with several HBCU leaders on Monday.
Some social media users said DeVos ignored the history of how black Americans were denied access to higher education. Others said the statement applauded the Jim Crow segregated education system for giving black students “more options.”
The hashtag HBCUs trended on Twitter on Monday evening and was briefly the most mentioned hashtag on the social networking platform.
Some argued that DeVos' statement presents HBCUs as if they were created as a better option to traditionally white universities. The Department of Education lays out on its website that HBCUs were established because “there was no structured higher education system for black students.”
“At a time when many schools barred their doors to black Americans, these colleges offered the best and often the only opportunity for a higher education,” the Department of Education notes on its website.
President Trump has said he will help HBCUs as a part of his New Deal for Black America plan.
Trump is expected to sign an executive order on historically black colleges and universities later today.
A senior White House official said the order will reposition an existing initiative on HBCUs and allow it to work with all the executive agencies and “serve as a strategic partner to the president’s urban agenda,” with the full force of the White House behind it.
However, the official said the order should be viewed as more of a framework and “infrastructure” and not a policy rollout, which will come later.
DeVos is delivering the keynote address Tuesday at an HBCU event at the Library of Congress.
ABC News’ Katherine Faulders contributed to this report.