“TELL THEM WE ARE RISING!”

We’re taking a look at the story of historically black colleges and universities and their impact on American history, culture and national identity.

Aired on February 16, 2018 & October 17, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> THROUGHOUT THEIR RICH 150-YEAR HISTORY, AMERICA'S HISTORICALLY BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES OR HBCU'S HAVE SERVED AS A HAVEN FOR BLACK INTELLECTUALS, ARTISTS AND REVOLUTIONARIES AS IT'S AN AVAILABLE PATH TOWARD THE AMERICAN DREAM FOR ALL AFRICAN-AMERICANS.

MANY HAVE TAKEN THE ARCHITECTS OF THIS COUNTRY'S FREEDOM MOVEMENTS AND NURTURED SOME OF THE MOST INFLUENCEAL AMERICANS OF OUR TIME, PEOPLE LIKE BOOKER T. WASHINGTON, MARTIN LUTHER KING, OPRAH WINFREY JUST TO NAME A FEW.

A DOCUMENTARY THAT WILL PREMIER ON MONDAY FEBRUARY 19, TELLS THE LITTLE KNOWN STORIES OF THESE AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING.

HERE'S A PREVIEW.

THERE'S A QUESTION FOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS HAS ALWAYS BEEN WHAT IS EDUCATION'S PURPOSE, WHO CONTROLS IT AND WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP OF EDUCATION TO THE BROADERED A PICA -- BROADER ASPIRATIONS OF OUR PEOPLE?

WTHE MORE THAT I'M DENIED TH ABILITY TO READ AND RIGHT, THE MORE IT'S SOMETHING YOU MUST HAVE.

YOU'RE PURSUING A CAREER, WHERE INTELLECT MATTERS.

AN EDUCATED BLACK POPULATION COULD NOT BE AN ENSLAVED BLACK POPULATION.

IF YOU WEREN'T OUT THERE DEMONSTRATING, THEN SOMETHING HAD TO BE WRONG WITH YOUR COOL.

WE WANTED FREEDOM NOW.

BUT WHITES WERE NOT PREPARED FOR ANY CHANGES HERE.

I THINK THEY SHOULD BE KEPT OUT ANY WAY POSSIBLE.

A SLAVE HOLDER COULD WORK A SLAVE TO DEATH, HE COULD RAPE A SLAVE, HE COULD DO VIRTUALLY ANYTHING, BUT TEACH A SLAVE HOW TO READ OR WRITE --

AS SOON AS THE WAR BREAKS OUT, THE FIRST THING THEY WANT IS TO GET AN EDUCATION.

THEY WANTED THOSE SLAVES TO BE AS PATERNAL AS POSSIBLE, FROM RACISM, WHETHER IT'S SUBTLE OR PLAY MANT.

WE MUST LOVE AND PROTECT EACH OTHER.

WE'RE ALL GOING THROUGH THE SAME EXPERIENCE.

HBCU IS SOMEWHERE WHERE I CAN BE COMPLETELY MYSELF.

THE BLACK COLLEGE EXPERIENCE PROVIDES A PLACE TO BE IN THE MAJORITY.

THIS IS SUCH A UNIQUE AND EMPOWERING EXPERIENCE.

THIS HBCU EXPERIENCE HAS TAUGHT ME THAT ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE AS LONG AS YOU HAVE THAT ONE SPARK.

AND WITH US NOW IS THE WRITER, DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER OF 'TELL THEM WE ARE RISING' STANLEY NELSON.

WELCOME BACK TO THE PROGRAM.

THIS IS A WONDERFUL FILM, I HAVE SEEN IT 2 1/2 TIMES AND I LIKED IT EVERY TIME.

THE FILM SPANS A PERIOD OF 150 YEARS AND THESE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES HAVE PLAYED A PIVOTAL ROLE, CRITICAL, PIVOTAL ROLE THROUGHOUT AMERICAN HISTORY.

GIVEN THIS IMMENSE TIME SPAN, WHAT CRITERIA DID YOU USE TO CHOOSE THE STORIES THAT YOU CHOSE?

THAT WAS PROBABLY THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THAT WE HAD.

HOW DO YOU TELL THIS HUGE STORY?

HOW DO YOU SIPHON IT DOWN AND TELL IT IN AND HOUR AND A HALF.

SO WE SAID WHAT A FILM DOES BEST IS TELL STORIES, IT DOESN'T GIVE A LOT OF FACTS AND FIGURES, IT TELLS STORIES, SO WE TOLD STORIES AND ONE STORY LED TO THE NEXT.

FOR EXAMPLE, WE KNEW WE WANTED TO START THE FILM IN THE TIME OF ENSLAVEMENT WHERE IT WAS ILLEGAL FOR SLAVES TO BE EDUCATED.

IN FACT IT WAS ILLEGAL TO EDUCATE YOUR OWN SLAVES.

THAT WAS ONE OF THE LAWS THAT WAS ON THE BOOKS IN THE SOUTH, YOU CAN'T EDUCATE YOUR SLAVES.

SO THAT'S HOW EDUCATION WAS SPEWAS --

I KNOW WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE A DOCUMENTARY, I KNOW THAT BY THE TIME THE CAMERA STARTS ROLLING, YOU'VE BECOME AN EXPERT BECAUSE YOU'VE DONE SO MUCH RESEARCH.

BUT WHAT SURPRISED YOU?

YOUR RESEARCH?

WHAT SURPRISED ME WAS WHAT AN AMAZING ROLE BLACK COLLEGES PLAYED IN SO MANY PIVOTAL MOMENTS IN AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY, BROWN VERSUS BOARD OF ED, WHICH CHANGED THE WHOLE IDEA OF SEPARATE BUT EQUAL, WHICH ENDED SEGREGATION AS A LAW, WAS REALLY PUSHED THROUGH AT THE HOW WART LAW WARD LAW SCHOOL.

THE FREEDOM RIDE, SO MANY THINGS, THE BLACK POWER MOVEMENT, A LOT OF THEM TOOK OFF AT BLACK COLLEGE CAMPUSES.

TODAY BLACK LIVES MATTER GETS SOME OF ITS STRENGTH FROM BLACK COLLEGE CAMPUSES.

SO IT WAS REALLY FASCINATING TO ME, YOU KNOW, HOW CENTRAL BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES HAVE BEEN TO SO MUCH OF THE HISTORY OF THIS COUNTRY.

AND WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTIONS OF THE BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, EVEN AMONG AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITIES?

I HAVE BEEN TRAVELING AROUND WITH THE FILM, SCREENING AT BLACK COLLEGE CAMPUSES, GETTING READY FOR THE FEBRUARY 19th FRESHMEN MERE ON PBS, AND ONE THING I FOUND, IT'S ALMOST LIKE IN THE BACK OF PEOPLE'S MINDS, THEY HAVE THIS IMAGE THAT BLACK COLLEGES ARE HELD TOGETHER BY GLUE AND SPIT AND THEY'RE THESE LITTLE WOODEN BUILDINGS THAT ARE NAILED SHUT.

BUT THAT'S NOT THE WAY IT IS.

A LOT OF THESE CAMPUSES ARE INCREDIBLY -- THEY'RE JUST INCREDIBLE CAMPUSES, THEY'RE INCREDIBLY DIVERSE, THEY WERE JUST AT FLORIDA A&M.

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL CAMPUS.

I WAS SURPRISED IN DOING RESEARCH FOR OUR INTERVIEW, I DISCOVERED THERE'S A REPORT, A STUDY BY THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA THAT SAID THAT 50 YEARS AGO THE UNIVERSITIES, HBCUs WERE ALL BLACK.

IN 1980, 80% WERE BLACK AND BY 2002 OR -- NO, BY 2013, IT WAS 75% BLACK.

THIS, I'M SURE THAT THE TRAJECTORY IS CONTINUING IN THAT DIRECTION.

HOW MUCH IS THAT GOING TO CHANGE THE ESSENTIAL CHARACTER OF HBCUs?

THIS IS MY OWN PERSONAL OPINION.

I DON'T THINK THE ESSENTIAL CHARACTER IS CHANGING OR HAS CHANGED IN THE VAST, VAST, VAST MAJORITY OF BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES.

SO STILL, THEY'RE VERY DIFFERENT INSTITUTIONS, THE ENTHUSIASM, THE LOVE OF THE SCHOOL IS VERY DIFFERENT, HOMECOMING IS SOMETHING JUST INCREDIBLE AT HBCUs.

EVEN LUNCHTIME AND DINNER TIME AS SOMEBODY SAID THE OTHER DAY, THEY'RE THE ONLY PLACE THAT YOU GET GRITS FOR BREAKFAST.

IT'S JUST DIFFERENT INSTITUTIONS IN A WAY, AND I THINK IN SOME WAYS THE EDUCATIONAL STYLE CAN BE DIFFERENT.

THEY'RE MUCH -- THEY TEND TO BE MORE NURTURING THAN THE VAST MAJORITY OF WHITE INSTITUTIONS.

PART OF IT IS A NURTURING OF LET ME HELP YOU, YOU CAN DO IT, WHAT'S WRONG?

WHY DIDN'T HE COME TO CLASS?

IT'S MORE OF THAT NURTURING WHICH IS PART OF THEIR CULTURE FROM THE BEGINNING.

AND THAT'S PART OF THE CULTURE THAT HAS SUSTAINED.

ALL RIGHT, STANLEY, SO THE FILM, AS I SAID, IS POLIBRILLIA IT'S WONDERFUL, I HOPE A LOT OF PEOPLE SEE.

FEBRUARY 19.

'TELL THEM WE ARE RISING' PREMIERS ON FEBRUARY 19 AT 9:00 P.M. ON PBS, PLEASE CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS FOR ADDITIONAL AIR TIMES.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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