Giles Hall is seen in the background on the campus of Spelman College in Atlanta. (Chris Shinn / Spelman College)
In the course of reporting its three-part series on HBCUs, Journal-Constitution reporters conducted dozens of interviews. What they heard was sometimes depressing, sometimes heartening and usually memorable. Some highlights:
“I use a phrase that got me in trouble. After 7½ years in this space and seeing a decline overall, my phrase is, ‘I am hopeful, but not optimistic.’” » Johnny Taylor, former president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which supports public HBCUs. Taylor believes that as many as 25 HBCUs may vanish by 2035.
“There’s probably varying reactions to my being here. If you are personally impacted by some of the things that we had to do, then you are probably not overly happy with me. And I’m not overly happy about having to do those things, but I know that if we don’t make change, Cheyney won’t exist. I didn’t come here to make friends. My sole focus is to turn this school around.” » Cheyney University President Aaron A. Walton, the Pennsylvania insurance executive brought in to try to save the school.
"I went to A&T on academic probation because I almost flunked out of high school. But I had people there who, when they saw me struggling, pushed me. When they saw me doing well, they pushed me harder.” » Alanta software designer Horace Williams, a 2004 graduate of North Carolina A&T, an HBCU success story.
"Nobody knew his name. Nobody even knew if he was a student there. ... (A fellow student told me:) All you have to do is listen for this sound on the hall: 'Chicken man on the hall!'” » Donald Mason Jr., recalling his days at North Carolina Central for our HBCU Journeys podcast, when a mysterious man with a black plastic bag full of chicken and biscuits would show up on the hall at about 10:30 p.m.