Each year, it is our great privilege to posthumously honor outstanding members of the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) community who have left an indelible mark on the HBCU family. Their incredible legacies, are a lamp unto our paths as we seek to advance the mission and curate our visions for HBCUs in the twenty-first century. In our inaugural year, we honored fourth generation Fisk University alumna and forty-year Special Collections Archivist Beth Madison Howse. To be able to do so was particularly special to me as a Fiskite and friend of Beth whose passion and openness led me to this subject and ultimately inspired the founding and work of HBCUstory.
In 2014, we paid tribute to the life and work of Fisk University Professor Emeritus Dr. L.M. Collins, West Virginia State University President Emeritus Dr. Hazo W. Carter, Jr., North Carolina A&T State University Director of Band Dr. Johnny B. Hodge, Jr., Tennessee State University alumna and staffer Mrs. Mary Yancey Love, and Spelman alumna, archivist and college historian Ms. Taronda Spencer.
Known as “Doc Collins” or simply as “Friend,” L.M. Collins was an institution at Fisk. When planning last year’s symposium I knew that my tribute to him, which had gone viral amid the Fisk network, would be perfect. But what about these other beloved figures?
Representative Harold M. Love Jr., who has been a supporter of our work since day one, agreed to fly up to D.C. to honor his mother Mary Yancey Love, but up until a month before convening the second symposium, I still had no clue about how to reach the loved one of Drs. Carter and Hodge. Standing at the The Annual National Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Week Conference, I realized that the person next to me was a West Virginia State administrator. Within a week, the university’s president, Dr. Brian Hemphill was on-board and I’d made contact with Carter’s only surviving daughter Angela. I soon realized that Carter’s godparents were good friends of mine, legendary Tennessee State University professors Dr. McDonald and Jamye Coleman Williams (Wilberforce University; Fisk University). Later, I made contact with Hodge’s son via email, and he agreed to try his best to make it despite a conflicting engagement. Even I was prepared to skip him on the program until he shouted, “I’m here!”
Much like Beth Howse, Taronda Spencer was all things Spelman. We had the great fortune of bearing witness to Dr. Johnnetta Cole’s telling of Spencer’s HBCU story. What a story…and what a privilege it was for us to hear it from the Sister President.
This is our story of their lives and work. We hope that you’ll watch it and share it. It is a taste of all that is to come.
A member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Crystal A. deGregory, Ph.D. is a graduate of the historic Fisk University ’03. She received her master’s and doctoral degrees in history from Vanderbilt University. She also holds a master of education degree in curriculum and instruction from Tennessee State University, ’14, where she formerly taught in the department of history, geography and political science. A professional historian and passionate HBCU advocate, she is editor-in-chief of the forthcoming The Journal of HBCU Research + Culture. She is also a regular contributor to HBCU Digest, is a co-host of Black Docs radio show, and offers a wide-range of expertise on multiple topics including history, culture, education, black fraternity and sorority life and of course HBCUs. Follow her on twitter at @HBCUstorian, visit her website at http://www.CrystaldeGregory.com, or contact her via email at cadegregory@HBCUstory.com.