Dear Culture

HBCUs Are Here To Stay

Episode 103

Read the full transcript here.

Knowledge is power and this week on the Dear Culture podcast, our hosts, theGrio Social Media Director Shana Pinnock and theGrio Managing Editor of Politics Gerren Keith Gaynor, reflect on the powerful legacy of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The duo unpack on their own experiences at Spelman College and Morehouse College, and trace the impact of HBCUs on the culture through history and today.

From Whitley to Half Pint to Beyonce’s now-legendary 2018 Coachella performance, the impact of HBCUs on Black culture is undeniable. HBCUs are responsible for producing some of the most influential scholars, thinkers, activists and artists, including Pinnock and Gaynor who both reflected on how their time at HBCUs directly impacts and informs who they are today. 

Atlanta’s illustrious Morehouse College, the only all-male HBCU in America, is preparing to launch the Black Men’s Research Institute. (Photo: Mike Stewart/AP)

“I’m telling you, from my Black professors to my white ones to my Latina ones, they cared. They cared, and I am so grateful,” said Pinnock.

Gaynor echoed the same sentiment and added that while there is certainly historical evidence of the impact and importance of HBCUs, there is a current and urgent need for these institutions. 

“Going to Morehouse and having history courses in African-American studies, courses in African-American literature, I learned how much my high school—and all of my schooling really in New York— really failed me as a Black person,” said Gaynor.

“It’s important to see and know the truth for yourself, which really shows you how important books are even today. Because now, we’re having this pushback in schools about teaching about slavery and race and racism. I really encourage people to go to HBCUs and support HBCUs because…the PWI institutions sometimes can be a hindrance to knowing your own history, if it’s not around you.” 

Spelman College
A general view of “Hidden Figures” Q & A Discussion at Spelman Convocation at Spelman College on November 17, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for 20th Century Fox)

Gaynor’s comments reflect a growing conversation about the current importance of HBCUs and the role they play in the current racial and political climate. The Washington Post reports that application and enrollment at HBCUs are spiking in the midst of heightening racial unrest, and journalist Jemele Hill wrote an article for The Atlantic encouraging Black student Athletes to play for HBCUs.

While their SpelHouse love runs deep, both hosts say they have an unyielding gratitude for all 107 HBCUs. 

Tune into the Dear Culture podcast to hear the entire conversation, including why President Joe Biden’s plans to boost financial support for HBCUs is stalled and what needs to happen now to keep HBCUs alive.