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Arts & Culture
Peabody Award-winner Trey Kay brings us stories exploring all sides of the cultural issues that too often divide us.

Us & Them: HBCUs Surround Students With Black Excellence While Aiming For A Global Experience

Historically Black - Image
Historically Black, Currently Adapting

Born from an era of segregated educational opportunities when Black students were not welcome at predominantly white schools, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been focused on surrounding students with Black excellence.

Today, HBCUs are no longer exclusive. In fact, some schools — like Morgan State University — are actively recruiting a more diverse population to provide a more global experience to prepare graduates for the future. In West Virginia, white students already make up a significant majority of the enrollment at the state's two HBCUs.

Us & Them host Trey Kay looks at this era of intense competition for students and how some of the nation’s 100-plus HBCUs are adapting for the future.

This episode of Us & Them is presented with support from the West Virginia Humanities Council, the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, the CRC Foundation and the Daywood Foundation.

Yacob Astatke, MSU - Photo
Trey Kay
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Dr. Yacob Astatke is the assistant vice president for International Affairs at Morgan State University. He came to Morgan as an international student from Ethiopia in 1988 to study engineering and has been there ever since - first as a professor and now as an administrator.
Morgan State University Campus - Photo
Morgan State University
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Holmes Hall on the campus of Morgan State University.
MSU Students on Campus
Morgan State University
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Students on the campus of Morgan State University. MSU is not an exclusively Black institution, but the student body is predominantly comprised of persons of African heritage.
WVSU Campus
West Virginia State University
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West Virginia State University is an HBCU that has a predominantly white student body.
Sharon Smith Banks - Photo
Trey Kay
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Sharon Smith Banks worked at West Virginia State University for 30 years. From 1990 to 2021. During her time at State, many students referred to her as Mama Banks. She is photographed here next to the grave marker of Samuel Cabell in a Cabell Family Graveyard on the WVSU campus. Cabell was a plantation owner, who produced a family with Mary Barnes, who one of his slaves. The couple provided their 15 children with an exceptional education and they went on to become accomplished citizens. Portions of the original Cabell plantation was sold to the state of West Virginia and the West Virginia Colored Institute was founded in 1891, which has subsequently become West Virginia State University.
Eric Jackson
Trey Kay
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Eric Jackson is the interim Chief of Staff at West Virginia State University. He is also the Title III administrator for institution, which oversees the special federal funding they receive for being an HBCU.
Ben Trujillo - Photo
Trey Kay
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Ben Trujillo is a student at West Virginia State University. He was adopted into a mixed race family. He says he chose to attend State because he was looking for a learning experience that was “more minority driven” and where he could “interact with individuals who are maybe culturally aligned with me.”
Devon Pring - Photo
Trey Kay
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Devon Pring is among the majority of white students attending West Virginia State University. He comes from rural West Virginia and had little interaction with people of color in his public school education. He says he’s learning more than just academics at State. He feels like he’s now more aware of other cultures and the Black struggle in America.
Jasmine Coleman
Trey Kay
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Jasmine Coleman attends West Virginia State University for the nursing program and is also part of the majorette dance team. She says it was important for her to study at an HBCU because she grew up with little support in her education pursuits. She felt an HBCU would help her financially, socially and mentally.


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