The first-ever museum dedicated to the nation’s 102 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) recently opened with a brand-new welcome center in the District.

Owners of the 638-square-foot storefront plan to not only expand it to a 5,000-square-foot location in the District, but also establish a 6,000-square-foot showplace in Atlanta called the HBCU Museum Hotel Resort.

Terrence Forte, the museum’s founder and executive director, and his family — including his parents, both of whom attended Howard University — opened the museum as a celebration of HBCU core values: educating, uplifting and supporting Black communities.

“[The museum] chronicles our message of yesterday, today and tomorrow,” Forte told The Informer. “We are making sure to capture yesterday’s messages, yesterday’s legendary stories, and legacies that are in this very room that never made it into a textbook or even outside family lineages. … We just want to continue to build around that and strengthen all we can for tomorrow’s generation.”

The walls are adorned with various college memorabilia, as well as photos of HBCU clubs, organizations and leisure. The center even includes copies of some Black firsts, such as the first copy of Ebony magazine and an original copy of Jet magazine published following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“One of the things that has hampered our survival in America is not being able to reign in and bolster our stories — to tell our narratives, our way,” said historian Beulah Bell. “The rich legacies of Black colleges and universities, founded during the nadir of Black life in America and against the tide of White support, demonstrates our tenacity, bravery, and intellect. This museum is necessary and needed.”

The for-profit museum has received community and national support from as far away as Oakland’s Vice Mayor Desley Brooks on the West Coast.

Supporters include Al Sharpton, Radio One and Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Forte said the response has been “huge.”

“It has been completely positive,” he said. “One sentiment is that it should have been done years ago.”

To give back to the community, the museum offers scholarships to HBCU students. Eligible students will be required to attend two in-person interviews and give a speech to the board as to why they should receive a scholarship. All decisions will be voted on by the board, and the results will be emailed to the students.

The selected students must maintain a 3.0 GPA to retain their HBCU scholarship status, according to the museum website.

The center and museum will remain unaffiliated with any school to maintain objectivity and to celebrate each institution equally. With about 150 pieces and counting in the center, the staff must take precautions when authenticating items, a process that includes an internal review.

The museum’s admission prices for adults are $10 for a guided tour and $8 without a guide. The fare is $6 for children 11 and younger, senior citizens and members of the military, as well as per person with a group discount.

The operating hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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