"Tell Them We Are Rising" Reveals The Shrouded Past of HBCUs

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Recently, PBS premiered a new documentary about how black colleges had a considerable impact on America and the success of the black community. "Tell Them We Are Rising" shows the history of HBCUs (Historically Black College or Univeristy) from the very beginning until present day. It details the happenings that HBCUs went through from the eyes of current and former students as they hold the stories of their activism towards racial injustice from generations past.


The documentary details how black colleges at one time were the only place that black youth could gain an education from faculty that cared and looked like them so they would eventually be able to lift their people from poverty. In a nonverbal fashion, it details how it feels to go to an HBCU, even in present day, as a majority of black kids have never been in an environment where they are the majority and in that they can feel comfortable both finding and being themselves. By giving recognition to these institutions, it gives some of its viewers there first glance at HBCUs in general as they aren’t as well known as they should be outside of people of African decent. Although, as of now young adults of any ethnic background are allowed to attend, many black children that choose to go to HBCUs are met with responses of doubt and disrespect from peers that might not look like them. There is much information surrounding these colleges due to the fact that they are designed to host a majority of black students. There once wasn’t any other place black students could go to further their education.

 The real reason that put Brown v. Board of Education in the spotlight was because of the law school of Howard University. North Carolina A&T students were the originators of the sit-in movements that lit a fire through the South. And yet, how the students of Fisk had dealt with injustice since one of their earliest Presidents, Fayette A. McKenzie banned their newspaper, expelled students and fired teachers. Riots ensued, protests were launched and students went on strike for 10 weeks as they boycotted classes; and in the end, it actually work as McKenzie ultimately resigned and the institution was led by the late great W.E.B DuBois. 

The story of HBCUs is more important to this country and its inhabitants than they might ever know as these stories have never been told before. The feelings that they bestow upon black people as a small group that are lucky enough to attend one is a feeling that should be felt by every black individual under the sun as it is truly a once in a lifetime experience. It's only until you’re at one of these institutions and dig a little deeper into your history that you can truly appreciate it. "Tell Them We Are Rising" lets HBCU students all around the U.S. know that we are still going up at an exponential rate and that the stars, rather than the sky, are the limit.

Photo Credit: PBS

About The Author

A sophomore english major attending Morehouse College from Bronx, New York