While a lot of black history goes untold, award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson defies this chain by portraying the story of an overlooked, yet pivotal aspect of African American history – Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Tell Them We Are Rising is a documentary that not only tells the history behind HBCUs but also shows how they have influenced African American culture and identity. The film displays the evolution of black education from slavery all the way to contemporary times. From watching the documentary, I have learned a lot of things that I never knew about. For one, the immoral and fatal shootings of innocent students, Denver Smith and Leonard Brown, in the 1972 protests at Southern University in Baton Rouge, was a story I had never heard of. Another being the story of George W. McLaurin, who attended the all-white University of Oklahoma and was placed outside the classroom and expected to learn. These stories and much more were highlighted in the film and showed the severity and importance that education was to African Americans. They showed that the hope African Americans had for a better future was so strong that they put their lives and pride on the line.
In the documentary, college freshmen spoke about how she was always the token black girl in her school. Another spoke about how she never was taught by a black teacher or educator. Attending an HBCU was a life-changing chapter in their lives. It created a place where they could be unapologetically black.
Before attending J.D. Clement Early College High School, I was this girl. Knowing that someone else could relate to my experiences, moved me. I feel the documentary has enlightened me. I am more aware of the struggle that African Americans had to go through to allow me to be in the place that I am now.
On top of that, it has inclined me to want to go to an HBCU. I would recommend this event to another person because it is a unique and refreshing film that deserves to be seen. More people should and need to know about HBCUs and their impact, especially people of color. It deserves to be heard – no longer an untold story.