HBCUs: The Story That Keeps Telling

Updated: Jul 13

By Keisha J Kelley

(images courtesy of College Football of Fame)


Atlanta,Ga- Historical Black Colleges and Universities are the guardians of the culture. They are often called the stomping grounds for African American culture; a place where we go to cut our teeth. HBCUs carry a rich tradition and pride that many of us dream about long before we ever arrive to those distinct institutions. If we have the opportunity to become a part ot the culture, we embrace it, learn from it, build on it, and walk away with pride, memories, life long friendships, and most importantly; the degree that your parents will boast highly upon. In the story telling of HBCUs, I sometimes get lost in amazement in our storied past, which built our future. Recently, while combing through Instagram, as I normally do, I see a tag from the College Football Hall of Fame. As I scroll to see what this tag could be, a smile comes over my face. Picture after picture displaying the culture of not only HBCUs athletics, but also the pageantry of the marching bands and the culture that goes with it. As I sat scrolling in awe, I started to share with the rest of the world the pictures I witnessed. I immediately planned my trip to the College Football Hall of Fame. Upon arrival the next day, I enterend the building looking for who I will consider one the best curators I have listened to in a long time. Curator, Jeremy Swick, whose background is in Public History, and also did a main study in graduate school in African American History as it relates to the Civil Rights Movements greeted me and we were ready to start the tour. He studied movements, organizations, and influential leaders as well, many of which were started or inspired by those at HBCUs. He also adds that he studied sports and popular culture. Swick has been the historian and curator for the College Football Hall of Fame since 2018. He tells Black College Experience that "this exhibit was a combination of the many efforts at the Hall of Fame. This exhibit was building off the success of the Breaking Barriers series, which over the last few years has included exhibits and guest speakers and we wanted to bring it to the next level. In 2020, we hosted an HBCUs: Past, Present and Future Speaker Panel. This was the logical next step." Swick says. He adds "At the Hall of Fame, we are storytellers. I’ve had the amazing experience to interview some of our Hall of Famers on our Lessons from Legends series. One of the best parts of my job is I get to research, create,and tell those stories". This story, College Football and HBCUs – Their Story was one of the most exciting and rewarding I have had the opportunity to work on. By creating an exhibit that highlights the history of HBCUs and football it was the perfect combination! Although we began

planning this exhibit this year, the desire, the research and the interest has been there even longer." Swick says. This exhibit is important because it highlights the rich tradition, passion and pageantry of HBCU football. Given that rich long and rich history, HBCUs have continued to develop, evolve, and change over time. I’m sure when Biddle College (Johnson C. Smith University) and Livingstone College first squared off on a cold December day in 1892,they could have never imagined something as amazing as the spectacle that

HBCU football is today." Swick passionately ends with. The exhibit debuted on July 1st when the College Football Hall of Fame reopened its doors after being damaged in the midst of protests in Atlanta. The display will run through the end of October. As I looked at each piece of history, from the coaches with stories and tenures older than me and trophies that championship trophies that some hoisted consistently, I became more and more proud of where I came from and being in "the culutre" Studying the different Classics made me proud of the tradition that every HBCU has. The band and fanfare that comes with the football games, are unmatched, no need in trying. The long standing rivalries and Battle of the Bands are unimaginable. From trash talk to renenwed rivalries and rivalries we all look forward to every year, HBCUs have a story that we must continue to tell. If we don't tell our story, who will? If not now, when?

(images courtesy of the College Football of Fame)

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