I watched Tell Them We Are Rising, it is a documentary by PBS, which tells the history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States. After the Civil War, one of the first things that African-Americans did was build an education system. Prior to that time, many colleges, and leading academics of the time, including in the North, were opposed to having institutions of higher education for African-Americans. Initially, the school system for Black children was limited because many African-American teachers hadn’t had the chance to go to college and therefore could only teach the children as much as they knew. However, when HBCUs became available, many African-Americans had opportunities to gain higher education.
Some of the best and brightest members of the Black community went to HBCUs. Some of the top doctors, lawyers and academics were HBCU graduates, including Thurgood Marshall who attended Lincoln University. After the advent of HBCUs, African-American school teachers could finally attend higher education institutions and acquire the skills needed to instruct their students. Many Black teachers were just as well-trained and educated (and in some cases better educated) as the white teachers. However, black teachers were paid less than white teachers of equivalent credential and training. HBCUs were monumental to the Civil Rights movement. The Greensboro, North Carolina sit-ins at Woolworth, were led largely by HBCU students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Bennett College. In the 1970s, activism and Black power spread throughout HBCU campuses and culminated with the shooting of two students at Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA in 1972.
Tell Them We Are Rising ended with the state of HBCUs in the present day. Some HBCUs are thriving, while others are struggling to stay open. Some HBCUs, that had been open since the 19th century, have had to close their doors in the last 20 years. Ironically, this the present day struggles of many HBCUs are due to integration. More competition and prejudice against HBCUs has impacted the institutions, which used to be central to the black community. Yet, some Black millennials and younger Black people have specifically sought HBCUs as a refuge from the racism and marginalization that they experience at their predominately white institutions.
My opinion: I attended predominately white institutions my entire life, from kindergarten to graduate school. While I loved my graduate school. My time in undergraduate school was miserable. In undergraduate school, I attended a large, mostly white school in a southern/border state and there was constant isolation. As far as my grade school experiences, I could write a book about the marginalization that I faced. Th damage to my psyche and self-esteem is something that still affects me to this day. Yet, I never even considered HBCUs until graduate school and I regret it. If I had to do over, I would’ve attended an HBCU at least in undergraduate school. It would have been nice not to be marginalized for once.
I’m not alone in my feelings, many young black people are discussing the prejudice that they experience at predominately white colleges and I’m sure many are regretting not having attended HBCUs.
Overall, I recommend this documentary. It’s informative, entertaining, and emotional. Not to mention, the visuals of the young Black women and men in the documentary are beautiful.
See the video below-