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Living My HBCU Legacy

Four Black female college students sitting on a bench smiling and looking at a notebook held by a standing Black male college student

In the fall of my senior year at North Caroline High School, I joined many of my peers in feverishly preparing to complete college applications. I had taken both the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the SAT, and the American College Test, the ACT. I had secured letters of recommendation from my teachers and had maintained a nice GPA during my first three years of high school. College was my next step. And this is where I was different from most of my peers.

You see, I was not interested in just any college, I knew I wanted to go to a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). This was not because the band was going to be amazing (and it was) or because the Divine Nine would be stepping on the yard (and they did); instead, the main reason for my decision to attend an HBCU was because I needed to be surrounded by other Black intellectuals. Having grown up in a predominantly white academic environment, I needed to know I was not an anomaly. I wanted to be in the presence of Black excellence. The thought of sitting alongside up-and-coming physicians, lawyers, preachers, educators, and musical artists who would challenge me to be a better person during those important years of my young adult life was exciting to me. Far too often, I did not have that experience in my rural, white educational system and I knew I desperately needed it.

Attending an HBCU not only aligned with my desire to be around other Black intellectuals, but also honored the legacy of my family. My mother, my aunts, and my uncles all attended historically Black colleges. Most of them selected Morgan State University as their college of choice, but others were students at Maryland State College (now known as University of Maryland Eastern Shore), Maryland Teachers College at Bowie (now known as Bowie State University), and Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses. Like my mom, Morgan was my HBCU of choice!

As a child, I remember flipping through my mother’s college yearbook, The Promethean, and being amazed by how big it was and how much fun it looked like the students were having. I remember when the renowned Morgan State Choir would be featured on PBS and everything in our house would stop and we would watch them sing. I remember my mother waving her hand in the air as the choir sang Morgan’s alma mater: Fair Morgan. There was something about these small, yet significant experiences that lit a fire within me and caused me to disregard any consideration of applying to a predominantly white institution. I wanted to be with my people. I wanted to be at an HBCU.

And so, I am thankful for a family that celebrated the importance of education (whether that be a college education or learning a trade) and introduced me to the beauty and blessing of being educated at a historically Black university!

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