Awesome campus. The first time I’ve ever known an HBCU to be older than its host city. The only residential Black campus I know to transition all of its residence halls to apartment-style living centers.
Nice experience, nice campus, nice students.
Texas Southern University, the pride of Houston’s third ward.
Established humbly as Houston’s Colored Junior College, rapidly expanded in light of the 1947 Sweatt court case, and sustained by pure grit, Texas Southern University has a rich history. Texas Southern University, one of only two public HBCUs in the state, has grown from a community college to a doctoral level, 4-year university in a matter of decades. Boasting Barbara Jordan as their most famous alum, scores of graduates from Texas Southern have gone on to make an impact on Houston, the state of Texas, and the American southwest.
Texas Southern University’s 150 acre campus hosts the instruction and services for over 9,600 students. Texas Southern consists of 11 academic schools and colleges. The Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern, is one of only five historically Black law schools in the country.
Touring Texas Southern was exciting, a stroll down Tiger Walk winds through the entirety of campus. Tiger Walk is lined with most of the major campus buildings, the Yard, sculptures, a clock tower, and historic markers. The main library, next door to the campus theater building, is home to two annual exhibits, one dedicated to Barbara Jordan and the other celebrating art in Africa.
The film and communications department was particularly active during my weekend visit. While on campus, I witnessed the students filming a meeting. I spoke with a member of the crew about previous movies the film students have made and the movie posters lining the walls of the department. Next door in Hannah Hall, decades-old murals created by art students adorned the halls. The campus seemed warm and celebrated student creativity: a feeling directly reflected in the attitudes of the students I met.
Carl and the Carolinas: Winston-Salem,
Winston-Salem State University is a historically Black university in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. WSSU was the second institution visited in the Carl and the Carolina’s HBCU Trek, it is located approximately an hour north of Charlotte, NC and is easily accessible from the interstate. The gorgeous campus of WSSU is beset with new buildings and beautiful landscaping.
There is a healthy mix of historic buildings being renovated to improve accessibility and safety and newer, modern structures on the campus grounds. A statue of the institution’s founder, a skyscraping clock tower, and multiple metal sculptures accent the academic and administrative buildings around the campus. During the campus visit the students were warm and friendly, an admission counselor was extremely helpful and open, the library is adorned with powerful Black murals and great open space for reading and studying, and there were signs of growth and progress in the recent completion of the student center and on-going renovation of the administration buildings.
Considering the recent passing of Maya Angelou, it is special and encouraging to know that the legacy of her powerful words are memorialized on the central clock tower on the Winston-Salem State University campus. Maya Angelou’s words “One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with the potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue consistently. Without courage, we cannot be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest, consistently”.
In a day filled with HBCU journeys, a Memphis explorer and I visited all three of Arkansas’ historically Black colleges. Our journey began with the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, continue to Arkansas Baptist College, and ended with a self-guided tour of Philander Smith College.
Philander Smith College is located on a hill that overlooks downtown Little Rock. It is a small, private college nestled between the state capital/commercial downtown buildings and a thriving arts district. Because it is directly south of an interstate, the largest building on the north side of campus presents one of the largest signs promoting the college. The result: one cannot help but to see the school’s name Philander and motto “Think Justice” when entering or leaving downtown Little Rock. Along the west side of campus which is also on a busy street, a Philander Smith logo adorns the back of the library. Though it was my first time in Little Rock, I did not get lost finding Philander, with so much signage on the buildings you cannot miss it, and I’m sure it serves as a prominent landmark to the residents of Little Rock.
Philander Smith has an interesting history. Beginning as Walden Seminary, the institution was established in 1877 by the Freedmen’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Soon thereafter, Adeline Smith of Oak Park, Illinois, widow of Mr. Philander Smith, made a significant monetary donation to the Methodist Church to support their missions in the South. In recognition of this sizeable contribution to Walden, the board of Trustees renamed the institution Philander Smith College. Another institution for African Americans was established in the late 1800s by the daughters of George R. Smith in Missouri. In the mid-1920, the George R. Smith College buildings were destroyed by a fire. Considering their losses, the George R. Smith administrators decided to partner rather than perish and transferred their remaining assets to the Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. Enhanced by the merger, Philander Smith College has been able to serve the Black community of Arkansas and the South through its mission to advocate for Social Justice.
The day I arrived at Philander Smith, there happened to be a Spring festival taking place. People were barbequing at one end of the yard, a health summit was taking place in the main academic building, and a live band, Soulution Little Rock, was performing on the steps of the student services building.
It was an exciting day to match the exciting campus. New buildings lined the west side of campus, each of the buildings were larger than the structures in the more central part campus and all had large, modern signage and logos. The lampposts around campus flew banners with the Philander Smith logo and the motto of Building with Purpose.