Black College

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Fisk University Entrance

Fisk University Entrance

Standing on the highest of seven hills in Nashville, in the midst of the famed Jefferson Street, the bastion of Black culture, the stronghold of liberal arts, home of the Jubilee singers, alma mater of W.E.B. Du Bois, 40 acres of what puts the historically in HBCUs, the Fisk University has been “cultivating scholars and leaders one by one” since 1866.  Fisk University was planned three months after the American Civil War ended, since then Fisk has been transforming the lives of their students and culture of middle Tennessee.  The story of the Jubilee Singers, a group of Fisk students and faculty traveling around the United States and internationally singing to raise enough money to keep the institution open, inspires those interested in the performing arts to attend Fisk. The talent of the singers once caused the former queen of England to exclaim that they must be from some sort of “music city,” since then, Nashville has been proudly using the nickname Music City, USA.  The dedication of the Jubilee singers to the institution and the significant role they played in saving the school from bankruptcy and closure has earned the Jubilee Singers the most honorable memorial of being immortalized as the name of the first permanent structure on the campus as well as the center of the Fisk University seal.

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The architecture of the buildings on Fisk University’s campus is Gothic and enchanting. The students are warm, welcoming, and talented. Furthermore, it’s Fisk, the first institution for higher education in Nashville, neighbor of the largest producer of Black medical doctors Meharry Medical College, and down the street from the public Historically Black institution Tennessee State University.  I could go on about Fisk, but it would only further expose my bias for the school as one of my all-time favorites.  Enjoy the rest of the images of campus through my lens.

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Statue of one Fisk’s most famous graduates, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois


Jubilee Hall, currently a Fisk University women’s residence hall


Spence Hall, home of Fisk University dining


Voyager with two Fisk employees

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Cravath Hall, the Fisk University Administration Building

Cravath Hall, the Fisk University Administration Building



Fisk has rich history and deep heritage, to find out more about Fisk visit their site directly


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“A&M, A&M, A&M, A&M, U, wooooo, a …”


I heard the Alabama A&M chant throughout my childhood in Huntsville, Alabama. More than the chant, A&M line dances, marching band routines, and majorette eight counts were passed down to several of the high schools and multiple middle schools in north Alabama. At each football and basketball game, you could be sure to hear a high school band play song that closely resembled the pieces performed by the Alabama A&M Marching band.

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More than music and athletics, the people of North Alabama were influenced by the scores of A&M teachers, teaching assistants, substitute teachers, camp counselors, and community center employees dotted throughout the region.  A&M alumni teach classes, lead workshops, and serve in churches throughout the Alabama and their influence is widespread.

As a public land-grant institution, A&M has extension staff working all over the state of Alabama.  In addition to their extension services, A&M’s agricultural work with forestry gives them access to over 2000 acres of land that spans three area codes from Huntsville to south Alabama past the cities of Auburn and Tuskegee.

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Currently, Alabama A&M University serves over 5,300 students and boasts more than 40,000 alumni world-wide.  From the original Hooper Councill Training school to the new expansions on campus resulting from Knight v Alabama desegregation case settlement money, Alabama A&M University is merging its historic past with its progressive future to provide opportunities for forgotten and underserved sons and daughters of North Alabama and the entire Tennessee Valley.

Alabama A&M University, though technically located in Normal, AL, is surrounded on every side by the city of Huntsville, the fourth largest city and second largest metropolitan service area in the state of Alabama.  Originally located in downtown Hunstville, Alabama A&M was Huntsville’s only public 4-year higher education institution for 75 years until the establishment of University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) in 1950.  Alabama A&M was nearly all Black, and UAH is branch of the same school that resisted the federal government’s demand to desegregate, thus creating a race-based dual-system of higher education in Hunstville.  College desegregation lawsuits and federal policies have ruled in favor Alabama A&M, providing additional funds to the campus for capital improvements resulting in the a new athletic facility, residence center, and numerous academic buildings on the campus.  “The Hill” is still recognizable to older alum, while providing new state of the art facilities for today’s tech savvy college students.

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Boasting the city’s only college football team, Alabama A&M attracts a respectable crowd for Saturday night home football games and its marching band has total influence on North Alabama’s high school and middle school bands.  The football stadium hosts a number of high school football games and the Agricultural Exhibition Center puts on events that draws various population groups to the campus.  Alabama A&M has a strong and significant influence on the majority Black north Huntsville area, and the greater Tennessee Valley region.  Alabama A&M has 140 years of making the world better for our people and I look forward to 140 more years of the Bulldog boogie.

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Fayetteville State University Broncos

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According to the historic markers, Fayetteville State University was established in 1867,making it the second oldest public college in the state of North Carolina.  As a part of the University of North Carolina, Fayetteville State University is led by a chancellor.  Due to the leadership of its chancellors, faculty, and staff Fayetteville State University is well-known for the nursing program in the beautiful Southeastern North Carolina Nursing Education and Research Center and well-respected for its multiple partnerships with the U.S. military and establishment of a Center for Defense and Homeland Security.  Beyond the academic accolades, Fayetteville State University offers a lot to its 6000+ student body in the form of campus amenities and aesthetics.   There are at least three statues of Fayetteville State Broncos on the campus greeting people onto the grounds and into the athletic fields. Ceremonies seem to be constantly taking place in the Seabrook Auditorium, I actually stepped into an awards ceremony by accident when I came to the campus.  Modern on-campus accommodations for students include McLeod Hall, University Place Apartments, and the crown jewel Renaissance Hall.

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In addition to military personnel, adult learners, and traditional undergraduates, the Fayetteville State University campus also serves as the host site for two high schools: Cumberland International Early College High School and Cross Creek Early College High School.  With a pipeline of Upward Bound, Educational Talent Search, GEAR UP, two high schools on campus, a partnership with a third high school less than a mile away, and the FSU-Fort Bragg Center satellite with weekend and evening classes on the U.S. Air Force base, Fayetteville State University is poised to continue being a “beacon of guidance and inspiration,” further developing citizens who believe in “deeds not words.”

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Bronco statue and trademark at the entrance to the football field and basketball arena

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Voyager Carl Darnell with Fayetteville State Bronco and staff in the administration building

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Living-Learning Center and traditional style residence hall for underclassmen

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Interesting architecture on campus, the metal and glass structure is home to the Cumberland International Early College High School


Historic spot on campus, water spigot set up by the former slaves who once lived in Fayetteville.

For more information search the Fayetteville State University website

SImmons College of Kentucky The Birthplace of Black Higher Education in KentuckyHistory of Simmons University, the predecessor of SCKEntrance to the Simmons College of Kentucky Library

Visit to Simmons College of Kentucky. Simmons caught my attention because it recently gained regional accreditation. As an accredited institution for higher learning, Simmons College of Kentucky students are now able to participate in federal financial aid programs and the institution itself may begin receiving special funding from the federal Strengthening Institutions initiative (Title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965).

Simmons College of Kentucky (SCK) has a very intimate main campus with two multipurpose buildings located in the historic downtown district of Louisville Kentucky. According to our tour guide Darryl, also known as DJ, the college is set in the middle of our community. By our community,  DJ was referencing the public housing community directly across the street from the front of the campus. Simmons physically and operationally connects to Louisville’s Black neighborhoods through formal and informal means. From random cookouts outside of Parrish Hall to public viewings of the gallery of Simmons history, the community is frequently invited and seemingly always welcome on Simmons College’s campus.

After showing us around the campus, DJ told us about his experiences at Simmons and how he hopes to enhance his prison ministry after completing his degrees in religious studies. When he’s not giving campus tours or leading projects with the newly formed Student Government Association, DJ can be found telling people around west Louisville about the college on Kentucky and 7th Street, where they are doing good for the ‘hood.

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A small group of  visited the campus of the first Black institution that developed into what we call HBCUs. Cheyney University of Pennsylvania is located outside of Philadelphia on land donated over a century ago by a farmer named Cheyney.  Settled in the small town of Chester, Cheyney is a quiet place surrounded by farm land and a growing housing development.
Carl and Casta at CheyneyCarl and JT at Cheyney
The campus is lined with light posts waving the banners of famous Cheyney alumni like Ed Bradley and former leaders of the institution. Walking the paved walkways on a self-guided tour, my colleagues and I stopped in the student center first and had lunch in the cafeteria. Inside we met students from Philadelphia and other parts of Pennsylavania who happily talked about their majors and reasons for attending Cheyney. Interestingly, the students we spoke with had both transferred in to the university from other colleges and were eager to take full advantage of the HBCU experience. After eating, we looked around the cafeteria at the large pictures of Black people dawning the walls and the student feedback/staff response forms posted near entrance. It was great to see how open the university was to student feedback and how they posted the  anonymous feedback with signed responses from the staff that directly addressed the students’ questions and comments.


Leaving the dining hall, The Yard was beginning to fill with the smells, sights, and sounds of student activity. A couple of student organizations were barbequing at their respective plots, one playing music from a portable sound system and another using the system from a car pulled up to the yard.  Beyond the bustle outside the modern campus center, the campus was quiet and distinctly historic. Most of the buildings near the yard were lined with stone resembling cottages of an earlier era. Further toward the outskirts of the campus, bricked academic buildings took on a more modern feel, and the sciences building stood out most of all with its aluminum casing, naturally filtered rainwater pond, and new greenhouse.

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My crew ended the tour at the library.  The main floor of the library featured student art, proclamations of Cheyney’s historic founding and its impact on higher education, as well as archival photos of early 19th century classes with some of Cheyney’s first students. Though it was a Sunday afternoon, there was a significant number of students in the library working on papers and reading. Upon leaving the library we marveled at the new residence center that was nearly the largest structure on campus, took pictures of our favorite spaces, and left the historic campus with a greater feeling of HBCU love and heritage.

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It was a good visit made even better by the fact that I was able to share it with my colleagues from the AERA Conference 2014, one of which had never toured an HBCU campus. How appropriate for the first HBCU campus tour to be of the first HBCU.

Carl Darnell – April 8, 2014
Insert pictures courtesy of Casta Guillome, Jeremy Snipes, and Carl Darnell

For more information about Cheyney, visit their website

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