Terrence Forte and his family made history when they opened The HBCU Museum on March 9 on Georgia Avenue in Washington, D.C.
They launched the first-ever museum devoted to telling the stories of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities because they believe these remaining 102 HBCUs are still vital.
The nation’s first five HBCUs opened in the mid-1800’s. Cheyney State opened in 1837. Lincoln University received its charter in 1854 and opened in Pennsylvania. Wilberforce University opened in Ohio in 1856. Harris-Stowe State University opened in St. Louis in in 1857. LeMoyne-Owen College opened in Memphis in 1862.
Despite their distinguished histories and financial challenges, HBCUs are still vital. So a second museum could soon open in Atlanta. For now, the museum’s current 638-square-foot facility houses memorabilia such as historic photos of HBCU students, athletes, and campus life. The museum’s opening comes on the heels of the PBS documentary, “Tell Them We Are Rising,” which premiered in mid-February. In late March or early April, the new museum will host a larger grand opening.
In a recent interview in The Washington Business Journal, Executive Director Ted Forte said, “We want to bridge the gap for those who might not know about historically Black college and universities’ stories.”
He launched the mostly family-funded museum with his family. Both of his parents are Howard graduates.
This means you can pluck down the $10 admission fee and stroll through artifacts and photos that feature former Washington NFL quarterback Doug Williams, who attended Grambling State. You can also stroll past an original copy of Jet Magazine that features the assassination of Dr. Martin L. King Jr., as well as one of the first copies of Ebony Magazine.
Or linger by exhibits that depict famous HBCU grads such as CBS journalist Ed Bradley (Cheyney), Writer Langston Hughes (Lincoln), Writer Nikki Giovanni (Fisk), Former Washington, D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly (Howard), Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins (Howard), and Annie and Sara Delany (St. Augustine’s University).
Actor Taraji Penda Henson enrolled at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University but transferred to Howard, where she studied theater and worked part-time as a secretary at the Pentagon and as a cruise-ship entertainer, graduating in 1995 with a degree in theatre, according to biography.com.
“Our goal is to highlight the accomplishments of not only HBCUs, but some of their most accomplished graduates,” the museum notes in its mission statement on its website.
If you visit, make sure you purchase HBCU merchandise such as tee shirts and other merchandise. Or visit the museum’s website (www.thehbcumuseum.com).
By Rosaland Tyler