The Souls of Black Colleges: Cultural Production, Ideology, and Identity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Kabugi, Magana J
The production of music, art, literature, and other forms of cultural expression have been endemic to the identities of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Cultural production, in its diverse range of iterations, makes visible the distinct ideologies that permeate and define HBCU life. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education and the subsequent legislative victories of the American Civil Rights Movement throughout the 1960s, HBCUs faced a major hurdle: as more white institutions began to desegregate, the number of students and faculty at HBCUs began to diminish. Through my analysis of how three real HBCU campuses (Fisk University, Howard University, and Morehouse College) and two fictional campuses in literature and media (Sutton University and Hillman College) responded to this era of social and political flux, I pose two questions: first, what roles did the humanities and cultural production play in HBCUs’ responses to the social and economic shifts precipitated by collegiate desegregation? And secondly, what do these creative projects teach us about the roles of the humanities and cultural production in the construction of HBCU identity and ideology overall? I argue that a number of HBCU leaders and stakeholders drew upon aesthetic approaches influenced by an amalgamation of cultural, philosophical, literary, and artistic movements—ranging from the Black Arts Movement, social gospel theory, Pan-Africanism, and the aesthetics of black Generation X hip-hop politics—in order to formulate creative projects designed to reaffirm the HBCU mission.