Before the civil rights movement, African Americans were largely barred from white-dominated institutions of higher education. And so Black Americans, and their white supporters, founded their own schools, which came to be known as Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
HBCU graduates helped launch the civil rights movement, built the Black middle class, and staffed the pulpits of Black churches and the halls of almost every Black primary school before the 1960s.
But after desegregation, some people began to ask whether HBCUs had outlived their purpose. Yet for the students who attend them, HBCUs still play a crucial — and unique — role.
In this documentary, we hear first-person testimony from students about why they chose an HBCU; and we travel to an HBCU that’s in the process of reinventing itself wholesale.
The documentary was hosted by Stephen Smith in 2015 and was produced by Samara Freemark, Lilian Spriggs, Lysious Ogolo, Emily Hanford, Suzanne Pekow, and Stephen Smith. Edited by Catherine Winter.