Why Historically Black Colleges Are Enjoying a Renaissance


It’s the time of year when spring begins to graze the nascent stages of summer. The aroma from food trucks permeates the air while vendors encircle the amphitheater. Students meander among tables selling T-shirts emblazoned with phrases like “Respect This Melanin,” posters of activists such as Muhammad Ali and Angela Davis, and displays of recycled earth-tone jewelry.

At the end of nearly every week, students from Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University—adjacent historically black colleges that are part of the Atlanta University Center (AUC)—gather on Spelman’s campus in southwest Atlanta to inaugurate the weekend at the aptly named Market Friday. Stories of these events were a fixture around the dinner table in my home. My mother, sister, aunt, and wife all attended Spelman. My father and his brother went to Morehouse. Still, it’s one thing to hear about such an event, quite another to experience it for yourself.

This is the last Market Friday of the semester, the final one ever for graduating seniors. Market Fridays give students an opportunity to convene beyond classrooms and dormitories, and allow fraternities and sororities to show off choreographed dance and step routines, performances they’ve often spent months practicing. These organizations’ history is tied to public service and advocacy, and their social communities are the bedrock upon which that work is done.

The groups take the stage—sometimes separately, sometimes together—and move their bodies in an astonishing display of fervor and synchronization. Their movements are imbued with equal parts joy and vehemence as they slide their feet in concert across the brick surface.

As I sit among the students, the thump of their favorite hip-hop tracks disseminates across the campus and intermingles with boisterous laughter—the kind of laughter that only a Friday afternoon with friends can bring.

Read more of this article from our friends at National Geographic.

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