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5 Must Watch Movies on the Black College Experience

Written By: Alexandria Daniels

Historically Black Colleges and Universities are important to the black American experience. Back when black students were not allowed to attend colleges with white students, black colleges were made to deliver education that blacks rightfully deserved. HBCUs not only continue to be an integral part of American education for black students who want to continue learning about their culture and shape their identity, they also have fascinating aspects that make them stand out from white colleges such as step dance rituals and all black fraternities and sororities. These and other unique trademarks have made their way on to the big screen, showing audiences the nuances and complexities of HBCU life. Here are 5 films on the black college experience that you need to see: 

School Daze (1988)

Spike Lee’s 80s musical comedy tells a story that's loosely based on the director’s black college experience. Starring Larry Fishbourne and Giancarlo Esposito, Lee’s film shows Greek life members going toe to toe with the regular students at Mission College. Not only does it have memorable songs, the film depicts real issues that affect the black community like colorism and hair texture. 

Stomp The Yard (2007)

Get into the world of steppin’ by watching Stomp The Yard. Columbus Short stars as DJ Williams who joins his HBCU’s fraternity in which he and his members compete against another Frat in step competitions. The film is fun to watch as it pays tribute to a dance ritual that has HBCU roots.

The Great Debaters (2007)

Starring and directed by Denzel Washington, The Great Debaters is based on the true story of the Wiley College debate team led by Melvin B. Tolson (played by Washington). Set during the ‘30s Jim Crow era, Tolson is determined to have his all black debate team be just as equally qualified as their white counterparts.

Drumline (2002)

Check out Nick Cannon and his highly energetic performance as Devon Miles in Drumline. Miles attends Atlanta A&T University and joins this HBCU’s competitive band. It's a great comedy with stellar performances especially from the marching band that will blow your mind! 

Higher Learning (1995)

This 90s film, directed by the late great John Singleton, tells the story of three black students attending anHBCU. It's a thought provoking movie that deals with topics such as racism, segregation, and sexual assault. It's a well-rounded, nuanced film that shows just how complex life on a college campus, even a HBCU, can possibly be.

These films touch on various parts of the black college experience that inform, inspire, and entertain black audiences. They show how HBCUs are an important facet of American society that should be valued and protected. Hopefully you love these movies just as much as we do!

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