Help me learn about HBCUs, please!
September 26, 2016 10:27 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend books, movies, or other media about historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the USA?

I'm a white woman who wants to learn more about HBCUs in the US, especially what it's like to attend one. I'm up for fiction, non-fiction, movies, documentaries, blogs, music videos, fraternity/sorority websites, you name it. This is for my own personal interest, not for any kind of project. Thanks!
posted by cadge to Education (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
If a fictional HBU is all right, I definitely recommend A Different World (the Cosby Show spin-off series from the late '80s/early '90s). The series is on Netflix in several countries.
posted by northernish at 10:48 AM on September 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

In Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me the author spends quite a bit of time talking about Howard and how he experienced it (he refers to it as "the Mecca"). I would say it would be most valuable as a personal experience rather than a strictly historical one, but he really spends time trying to convey the importance and cultural significance it had/has to him and other black students.
posted by LKWorking at 10:55 AM on September 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

Spike Lee's School Daze is set at a fictional HBCU.

Arnold Rampersad's biography of Ralph Ellison talks about Ellison's experience at Tuskegee and about the Invisible Man's time at an HBCU at some length.

Coates also talks about Howard in his memoir, The Beautiful Struggle.
posted by praemunire at 11:01 AM on September 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, I've also heard good things about Cole Lavalais's Summer of the Cicadas.
posted by praemunire at 11:03 AM on September 26, 2016

The beginning of Ellison's Invisible Man is an extremely critical view of an HBCU.

A quick googling uncovered a reft of non-fiction books on the subject. This one looks worth checking out.
posted by dis_integration at 11:11 AM on September 26, 2016

Plenty of results from WorldCat.
posted by xenization at 11:18 AM on September 26, 2016

In re: A Different World: The first season is pretty silly and broad, but the second is basically a reboot and goes deep into the HBCU experience, becoming a great television show in the process.
posted by General Malaise at 11:19 AM on September 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

BuzzFeed devoted a week to HBCUs. The episode of the podcast Another Round that week was really eye-opening. I'd never heard a student/alum of an HBCU explain why they chose to go to one, and it really helped me understand their viewpoint.
posted by radioamy at 11:29 AM on September 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Open Library has a number of freely available documents about HBCUs which might be fun to browse. Here are a few.

- The announcement and program of Howard University's semi-centennial in 1917.
- Howard University Record from 1910
- Elizabeth City State University yearbook 1993-1994
- this book, The Educator (1906), "looks at 13 "educational districts" within the African Methodist Episcopal Church's Dept. of Education, giving the history of the colleges and universities within each district." Lots of illustrations
- History of Morehouse College (1917)
- There's a historical sketch of Wilberforce (OH) University within this otherwise tough to read (racist and patronizing) A half century of freedom of the Negro in Ohio
posted by jessamyn at 12:09 PM on September 26, 2016

And for something that might be an interesting perspective Howard Zinn was a white Russian Jewish man who taught at Spellman College for a while and got fired because the president felt he was trying to radicalize the students there. It's interesting reading some of his views on working at HBCUs. Here's one article.
posted by jessamyn at 12:12 PM on September 26, 2016

Movies that are silly but also capture a lot of the social traditions, particularly the marching band traditions and Black Greek life (along with class- and color- issues) at HBCUs are Drumline and Stomp the Yard.
posted by TwoStride at 5:11 PM on September 26, 2016

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