The HBCU advantage: Predominately black schools foster self-exploration


Earlier today, I was asked if we really need HBCUs. She wasn’t saying historically black colleges and universities are bad, but she wondered if we really had a need for them.

Referencing an NPR interview of John Silvanus Wilson Jr. – who is gearing to be the 11th president of Morehouse College – I answered her question.

“I think HBCUs serve a special function,” Wilson said. “They continue to serve a special function. We have a better time graduating students. It is a more nurturing environment, in some cases.”

And although I opted to attend an HBCU for a slightly different reason, I have to agree with his statement. I have grown as a person at Florida A&M in a way that may not have happened anywhere else.

I attended a predominantly white private high school in Virginia, and it was hard. I was one of the two African-American girls in my graduating class. And if you’ve heard about parts of Virginia, you know that some are a bit racist. Although I still don’t know if that’s the case at my alma mater. Moving on.

Since dating out of my race wasn’t really my mindset at the time, I was very aware of my slim pickings. There were about seven black guys in my grade. One of them I have known since birth, so he was out. Another was his childhood friend – no. One of them transferred, another was gay and the rest were idiots. Like I said before, times were rough.

I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I felt like everyone was watching me, like I was the spokesperson for every black person in America. That was definitely not the case.

So my junior year of high school, I attended an internship for journalism and photography in Washington, D.C., and a FAMU alumna was my adviser. She told me about FAMU and its journalism department. So when I got home, I went to FAMU’s website. I became a Rattler in fall 2009.

The reason I have so much respect and pride for HBCUs is because it’s where I found myself. It’s where I found pride in my school and found my future. My friends from high school share my sentiments and also decided to attend HBCUs:  Morehouse, Hampton University, Norfolk State University and Spelman College, which will become my younger sister’s home this fall.

Not everyone is meant to attend an HBCU. By all means, do what makes you happy. I just think that if you attend an HBCU and embrace what it has to offer, your world will change for the better.