Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have had an undeniable impact on the culture. As a result, it’s important to look back and acknowledge some of the different ways that these institutions have been immortalized in media.
In honor of Black History Month, let’s look back on some of the ways that HBCUs have been incorporated into various films and television shows.
A Different World
First up is A Different World, which highlighted student life at the fictional Hillman College during its 1987-1993 run.
On top of the college antics, this The Cosby Show spin-off also notably touched on various hot-button issues of the time, including HIV/AIDS and domestic violence.
Hillman College was always a good time! 😂 Tune in to your favorite episodes of #ADifferentWorld this Saturday during our #BlackHistoryMonth '80s Black TV Sitcom Marathon! https://t.co/xlCmySoAny pic.twitter.com/uPYgNnvUUx
— TV One (@tvonetv) February 9, 2023
This Spike Lee musical production premiered back in 1988, and it’s focused on highlighting conflicts between students at an HBCU. It’s also set during the school’s Homecoming celebration, and it prominently touches on experiences within Black fraternities and sororities.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, School Daze is particularly noteworthy for how it “tackled a long list of issues” that ranged from colorism and structural racism to hazing and self-esteem among women.
Boyz N The Hood
At the very end of this beloved classic, Tre and Brandi head off to Atlanta to respectively attend Morehouse and Spelman.
As a result, Boyz N The Hood presents an HBCU education as a way of ushering in life-changing possibilities, as it allowed Tre and Brandi to leave South Central Los Angeles for new pursuits.
When watching reruns of Living Single, viewers can’t help but fawn over some of the various pieces of HBCU memorabilia that the characters donned.
After all, HBCU drip deserves to be highlighted, too!
yeah living single always come through with the HBCU representation 💙⚓️ pic.twitter.com/UTkewMIex3
— lipé’s plastic off the sofa (@_itsfelipe1) May 21, 2021
This coming-of-age film highlights the enormous pride that various HBCUs have in their marching bands, as it takes place at the fictional Atlanta A&T University.
About 12 years after the initial film, a sequel called Drumline: A New Beat premiered on VH1.
From 2004-2009, students attending various HBCUs were featured on this BET series. They were also all living under the same roof, which allowed for explosive moments to bubble up every now and then.
Throughout the course of its run, institutions like Southern, Langston University, Virginia State, the University of the Virgin Islands, Morehouse, and Clark Atlanta.
Stomp the Yard
Switchin’ over to steppin’, we have Stomp the Yard. This 2007 production highlights stepping competitions between fraternities at a fictional HBCU called Truth University.
The Great Debaters
Wiley College took center stage in The Great Debaters, which highlighted the Texas institution’s exemplary 1935 debate team.
Denzel Washington starred as the debate team’s coach, Melvin B. Tolson. Notably, upon the film’s 2007 premiere, Washington pledged to donate $1M to establish the debate team.
The Real Housewives of Potomac
We also have to acknowledge the situation over on RHOP. With Gizelle Bryant (infamously) attending Hampton University and Candiace Dillard Bassett being a two-time Howard grad, HBCU excellence certainly exists among the show’s full-time cast members.
Additionally, Charrisse Jackson Jordan’s daughter, Skylar, attended Spelman College, and Robyn Dixon’s husband has ties to Coppin State University.
With so many RHOP stars having ties to HBCUs, they definitely have an unspoken presence on the show!
Congratulations to Candiace on her MBA from Howard!! Such an incredible accomplishment #RHOP pic.twitter.com/fKDLwqv1S4
— justin (@justinnalexx) December 12, 2022
The Real Housewives of Atlanta
HBCUs also had a lil’ moment over on RHOA, as Clark Atlanta University was at the center of a heated interaction back during Season 11.
The conflict was specifically centered around ex-friend-of Yovanna being upset about Eva Marcille not remembering her, as they had apparently attended CAU at around the same time.
Yovanna: you dong know me?
Yovanna: that’s impossible-
Kandi: how is it impossible?
Yovanna: I mean, I was that b*tch! I was Yovanna from Clark! CAU! pic.twitter.com/wKpR2oDpB8
— Cool Girl (@Tea_witdre) March 21, 2022
While it wasn’t super in-your-face, keen-eyed Girls Trip viewers spotted a shoutout to Florida A&M University.
The friends at the center of the film all met at the Tallahassee HBCU. Notably, Will Packer—the producer—attended FAMU as well, which may have inspired the reference.
I’m JUST realizing Will Packer went to FAMU & he made the school they graduated from in Girls’ Trip FAMU 😱😂😂😂😂
— J❤️🩹 (@_imbeautifulll) April 28, 2020
Next up is The Quad, which aired for two seasons ahead of BET canceling it.
The drama series takes place at the fictional Georgia A&M University, and one of the major characters serves as the HBCU’s first-ever female president.
Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé
One year after her iconic performance at Coachella, Beyoncé unveiled a film to provide fans with an “intimate, in-depth look” at the road to her performance.
As her Coachella set—known as Beychella—paid homage to HBCU culture, Bey definitely brought on the Black college representation!
College Hill: Celebrity Edition
In 2022, College Hill made a star-studded comeback! The revival took place at Jackson State University and featured celebs like Ray J, NeNe Leakes, Lamar Odom, Big Freedia, and Stacey Dash.
BET also reports that another season began filming at Alabama State University back in late 2022, and stars like Amber Rose, Tiffany Pollard, Ian Shumpert, and Joseline Hernandez were name-dropped.
All American: Homecoming
Finally, we have the HBCU-focused spin-off to All American, which takes place at a fictional institution dubbed Bringston University.
The first season of the sports drama aired from February-May 2022, and it’s been renewed for a second season.
Shoutout to all HBCU students and alumni out there!