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The 1st Museum Dedicated to America’s Historically Black Colleges Is Open in Washington, DC


Washington, DC – The first museum dedicated to honoring and documenting historically black colleges and universities has opened its doors in Washington, D.C. 

The HBCU Museum

The HBCU Museum, located on Georgia Avenue, opened March 9, and it’s been attracting national media attention this week.

“Our goal is to highlight the accomplishments of not only HBCUs, but some of their most accomplished graduates,” reads the museum’s mission statement

The venture is both family-run and mostly family-funded, museum executive director Terrence Forte told the Washington Business Journal. Both of his parents attended Howard University and, together, the family hopes the museum will serve as a point of education. 

“We want to bridge the gap for those who might not know about historically Black college and universities’ stories,” Forte said.

With a $10 admittance fee, the

museum houses historic photos from HBCU students and culture throughout the years. But Forte hopes this is only the beginning. He noted that members from the community have already been asking to donate their own memorabilia. 

Richard Humphreys founded the first HBCU, Cheyney University, in Pennsylvania in 1837, like many subsequent HBCUs it dedicated itself to providing higher education for black students during the segregation era. Most  white universities and colleges openly barred black students from enrollment until the late 1960s.

There are currently 102 HBCUs. These colleges were founded out of a need to provide black students with access to higher education during times of segregation. HBCUs are still a necessity today, as they center black academia and culture while fostering a strong sense of community for black students, a void left by many predominantly white institutions.

The HBCU Museum

Some notable alumna of HBCUs include: Taraji Henson (Howard Univeristy), Oprah Winfrey (Tennessee State University), Erykah Badu (Grambling State University), and Spike Lee (Morehouse College).

Forte and his family also hope to majorly expand from their current small lot. They are looking for a new 4,000 to 5,000-square-foot space in D.C. with plans to eventually expand into Atlanta as well. Right now, however, the main factor is money. 

“The planning for this has been going on for a long time,” Forte told the Washington Business Journal. “But [the financial struggles] make it ever so much more important to have it now, so people understand exactly how important HBCUs are not just for the people attending them but for culture in general.” 

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Phyllis Coley
Phyllis D. Coley is CEO/Publisher of Spectacular Magazine and Host of Spectacular Magazine Radio Show. With a B.A. in English from NCCU, the Durham native began her professional career as Promotions/Marketing Director for New York City’s WKTU-FM. While at the radio station, Coley discovered the rap group Kid ‘n Play and managed them for five years, guiding their music and movie careers to success. Moving back to Durham, Coley produced a nationally syndicated television show, The Electric Factory, while working as News Director for FOXY 107/104. In April 2002, recognizing a void in highlighting the achievements of African Americans, she started her own business publishing ACE Magazine. Coley launched Spectacular Magazine in November 2004. Recognizing the lack of pertinent and truthful information, Coley began Spectacular Magazine Radio Show in March 2009. Coley is the organizer of Durham's Annual MLK/Black History Month Parade and the Annual North Carolina Juneteenth Celebration. She currently serves on Central Children’s Home Board of Directors, Raleigh Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Advisors, as Immediate Past Secretary of the Durham Rotary Club Board of Directors and is one of the founding members of the Triangle United Way’s African American Leadership Initiative.

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