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CNN — 

After 35 years, the cast of “A Different World” has reunited on a tour of historically Black colleges and universities to promote enrollment and raise scholarship funding for current and future students.

“A Different World” was a spin-off of “The Cosby Show” that followed Denise Huxtable’s character, played by Lisa Bonet, as she attended Hillman College, a fictional HBCU in Virginia.

The “A Different World HBCU College Tour 2024” kicked off Thursday at the Atlanta University Center as the cast visited Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College.

Cast members on the tour include Jasmine Guy, Kadeem Hardison, Dawnn Lewis, Glynn Turman, Cree Summer, Charnele Brown and Darryl Bell.

Bell, who played Ron Johnson on the sitcom, helped organize the tour. He told CNN he sees the campus visits as an opportunity to honor the legacy of the show and introduce a new generation to HBCUs.

“Not a day goes by, for all of us who were involved with the show, where someone doesn’t come up to us and say, ‘I went to an HBCU because I watched ‘A Different World,’” Bell said.

Bell told CNN it’s important for young Black students to consider attending HBCUs because they will not only get a great education, but there’s also a special sense of family.

“HBCUs have produced some of our greatest leaders, greatest minds and greatest thinkers,” Bell said, adding that at HBCUs “there’s an investment that is much more personal.”

Notable HBCU alumni include Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Kamala Harris, Spike Lee, Oprah Winfrey, Thurgood Marshall, Samuel L. Jackson and Booker T. Washington.

After the cast visited Spelman, Helene Gayle, the president of the college, posted on X that “it was only fitting that they chose to kick off their HBCU College Tour at Spelman,” as several buildings on campus were used in the show to depict the fictional Hillman College.

“A Different World” was also known for tackling difficult and controversial subjects, and students had an opportunity to ask the cast about their experience filming the show during a Q&A session, according to CNN affiliate WXIA.

Kadeem Hardison, who played Dwayne Wayne in the show, recalled one of his favorite episodes, which tackled race relations.

“We got into kind of a racial tension argument, beef, with these White guys and they put us in jail,” Hardison told the audience. “And we had some good talks, some good listening and some good dialogue between all of us. And what it showed was that we’ll get much further if we listen — if you listen to people and you try and see it from their point of view, it will help you understand them better.”

Bell told CNN he’s amazed at the impact the show – and the fictional Hillman College – has had on influencing students to attend HBCUs.

“The only sad thing about ‘A Different World’ is the same frequency with which folks come up and say, I want to apply to Hillman. And I’m like, I’m sorry, that’s where we able to draw the line.  Hillman is not real; you cannot go to Hillman.  You could go to Hampton, you go to Howard, there’s some other choices. But Hillman is not in the cards,” Bell told CNN.

HBCU enrollment increased 26% between 1976 and 1994, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. But the agency noted, “virtually all of the increase occurred between 1986 and 1994.”

“A Different World” aired from 1987 until 1993.

In April, the tour will visit Howard University, Alabama State University and Tuskegee University. Throughout the tour, students will be invited to participate in seminars on financial literacy, career coaching and networking. The cast will also hold voter registration drives on campuses to increase civic participation ahead of the 2024 election.

“The need for Black, Brown and poor people to be registered to vote and have their voices heard is essential,” Bell told CNN.

He said the tour has received requests to visit some predominately White colleges and universities as well.

“Some of the largest schools, while not HBCUs, have large African American and Hispanic communities that want to be engaged with us in our content,” he said.

So far, the tour has raised $50,000 in scholarship funding and has set a goal to raise $1 million by the end of the tour.

But ultimately, Bell said, the tour is about inspiring future generations to keep the legacy of HBCUs – even fictional ones like Hillman College – alive.

“It’s about having an opportunity, about having a pathway to a career,” he said.

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2024 Annual National HBCU Week Conference




The Initiative will host the 2024 Annual National HBCU Week Conference September 15-19, 2024, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Aligning with the Department’s “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” call to action, the Initiative will continue to identify and target tangible opportunities that would connect federal and private resources to the HBCU community.  To that end, the conference will feature the sixth annual Career and Recruitment Fair, celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the HBCU Scholar Program, the always exciting Federal Agency Meet & Greet, and feature 50+ sessions and workshops grouped into the following paths of engagement:

Career Pathways and Economic Mobility: This track is designed to maximize programs, resources, and initiatives that support the recruitment of HBCU talent, human capital, and career advancement opportunities.

Research and Innovation: This track is designed to expand research capacity and opportunities within federal agencies, private and nonprofit organizations for HBCUs. It is an opportunity to showcase innovation through partnerships that involve HBCUs, its faculty and its students.

Economic Development: This track will provide information on how HBCUs can leverage partnerships that advance opportunities to promote the economic wealth of the HBCU and the communities they serve.

STEAM: Exploring evidence-based tools and innovative practices in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. 

Infrastructure: Broadening access to resources that provides equitable support to mitigate, enhance and sustain physical and technological infrastructure.

Executive Leadership: Invitation only engagements for Presidents and their executive leadership.

Emerging Leaders: Formulated for students and entry to mid-level professionals.

Event Information                 

Conference Content (Coming Soon)

Federal Employee- Volunteer Information

Exhibitor Information

Career & Recruitment Information

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Authors Who Impacted HBCU Schools




At HBCU Original, we proudly recognize the profound influence of literature on the landscape of Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Join us as we explore the lives and works of notable authors who have left an indelible mark on HBCU campuses, shaping the intellectual and cultural fabric of these institutions.

1. Zora Neale Hurston – Barnard College (Attended Howard University for Bachelor’s): Zora Neale Hurston, renowned for her groundbreaking novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” spent formative years at Howard University. Her vibrant prose and exploration of African American folklore continue to inspire students and scholars at HBCUs, illuminating the complexities of Black identity and experience.

2. Toni Morrison – Howard University (Late): Toni Morrison, a Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, served as an esteemed faculty member at Howard University early in her career. Her novels, including “Beloved” and “The Bluest Eye,” resonate deeply with students and faculty, fostering critical dialogue on race, memory, and resilience within HBCU communities.

3. Langston Hughes – Lincoln University (Late): Langston Hughes, a pivotal figure in the Harlem Renaissance, attended Lincoln University, where he honed his craft as a poet, playwright, and essayist. His works, such as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “Montage of a Dream Deferred,” continue to be studied and celebrated on HBCU campuses for their profound social commentary and lyrical beauty.

4. Alice Walker – Spelman College: Alice Walker, acclaimed author of “The Color Purple,” is a proud alumna of Spelman College. Her literary activism and exploration of Black womanhood have resonated deeply within HBCU communities, inspiring generations of students to engage critically with issues of race, gender, and power.

5. James Baldwin – The New School (Attended Howard University for 2 years): James Baldwin, though he didn’t graduate from an HBCU, spent formative years at Howard University. His powerful essays and novels, such as “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “The Fire Next Time,” continue to provoke thought and inspire activism among students and scholars at HBCUs, urging them to confront systemic injustice and embrace the power of storytelling as a tool for social change.

6. Ralph Ellison – Tuskegee University (Late): Ralph Ellison, author of the seminal novel “Invisible Man,” attended Tuskegee University, where he was influenced by the teachings of Booker T. Washington. His exploration of identity, invisibility, and racial prejudice continues to resonate with students and faculty at HBCUs, prompting critical reflections on the complexities of Black existence in America.

7. Nella Larsen – Fisk University (Attended University of Copenhagen for Nursing): Nella Larsen, a groundbreaking novelist of the Harlem Renaissance, attended Fisk University before pursuing nursing studies in Copenhagen. Her novels, including “Quicksand” and “Passing,” offer incisive critiques of racial passing and societal expectations, prompting meaningful discussions on identity and authenticity within HBCU classrooms.

8. Gwendolyn Brooks – Wilson Junior College (Attended Wilson Junior College for 2 years): Gwendolyn Brooks, the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, attended Wilson Junior College before transferring to a predominantly white institution. Her poetry, infused with themes of racial injustice and urban life, continues to inspire students and faculty at HBCUs, fostering a deeper understanding of Black lived experiences.

9. Nikki Giovanni – Fisk University: Nikki Giovanni, acclaimed poet, activist, and educator, is a proud alumna of Fisk University. Her bold, unapologetic verses on love, race, and social justice have resonated deeply within HBCU communities, inspiring generations of students to find their voice and speak truth to power.

10. August Wilson – University of Pittsburgh (Attended Central State University for 1 semester): August Wilson, renowned playwright and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, briefly attended Central State University before transferring. His powerful cycle of plays, including “Fences” and “The Piano Lesson,” explore the African American experience with depth and humanity, leaving an indelible impact on HBCU students and scholars who study his work.

These notable authors have not only enriched the literary landscape but have also contributed to the intellectual vibrancy of HBCU campuses, inspiring generations of students to engage critically with issues of race, identity, and social justice. At HBCU Original, we honor their enduring legacies and celebrate their profound impact on the world of literature and academia.

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Notable Alumni from Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)




At HBCU Original, we take immense pride in honoring the rich heritage and remarkable achievements of Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Join us as we shine a spotlight on some of the distinguished alumni who have emerged from these esteemed institutions, leaving an indelible mark in various spheres of influence.

Celebrity HBCU Alumni:

  1. Oprah Winfrey – Tennessee State University
  2. Taraji P. Henson – Howard University
  3. Samuel L. Jackson – Morehouse College
  4. Erykah Badu – Grambling State University
  5. Chadwick Boseman – Howard University (Late)
  6. Anika Noni Rose – Florida A&M University
  7. Common – Florida A&M University
  8. Wendy Raquel Robinson – Howard University
  9. Spike Lee – Morehouse College
  10. Keshia Knight Pulliam – Spelman College

Professional Athletes:

  1. Jerry Rice – Mississippi Valley State University
  2. Doug Williams – Grambling State University
  3. Steve McNair – Alcorn State University (Late)
  4. Earl Monroe – Winston-Salem State University
  5. Terry Crews – Western Michigan University (Attended Flint, Michigan’s Interlochen Center for the Arts for High School)
  6. Willie Lanier – Morgan State University
  7. Dominique Wilkins – University of Georgia (Attended North Carolina State University for 2 years)
  8. Alice Coachman – Tuskegee University (Late)
  9. Tina Thompson – University of Southern California (Attended University of Southern California for Master’s)
  10. Bob Hayes – Florida A&M University (Late)

Famous Politicians:

  1. Kamala Harris – Howard University
  2. Andrew Young – Howard University
  3. Thurgood Marshall – Lincoln University (Late)
  4. Shirley Chisholm – Brooklyn College (Attended Brooklyn College’s Jamaica Campus for High School) (Late)
  5. Kwame Kilpatrick – Florida A&M University
  6. Stacey Abrams – Spelman College
  7. Cory Booker – Stanford University (Attended Stanford University for Bachelor’s) (Attended Stanford University for Master’s)
  8. Julian Bond – Morehouse College (Late)
  9. John Lewis – Fisk University (Late)
  10. Barbara Jordan – Texas Southern University (Late)

Musicians and Singers:

  1. H.E.R. – Berklee College of Music (Attended Berklee College of Music for Music Production and Engineering)
  2. Diddy – Howard University
  3. Pharrell Williams – Northwestern University (Attended Northwestern University for 2 years)
  4. Kamasi Washington – UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music (Attended UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music for Jazz Studies)
  5. Toni Braxton – Bowie State University
  6. Patti LaBelle – University of Maryland Eastern Shore
  7. Sean Combs – Howard University
  8. T-Pain – Florida A&M University
  9. K. Michelle – Florida A&M University
  10. Fonzworth Bentley – Morehouse College

Other Important Persons:

  1. Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois – Fisk University (Late)
  2. Dr. Maya Angelou – California Labor School (Late)
  3. Dr. Alain LeRoy Locke – Harvard University (Late)
  4. Dr. Octavia E. Butler – California State University, Los Angeles (Late)
  5. Dr. Carter G. Woodson – University of Chicago (Late)
  6. Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune – Scotia Seminary (Late)
  7. Dr. Carter G. Woodson – University of Chicago (Late)
  8. Dr. John Hope Franklin – Fisk University (Late)
  9. Dr. Benjamin E. Mays – Bates College (Late)
  10. Dr. Dorothy Height – New York University (Late
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