Story of historically black colleges, universities to be told in 'Tell Them We Are Rising'

Last Updated by Chip Chandler on
'Tell Them We Are Rising' premieres Feb. 19 on Independent Lens.
Courtesy of Morgan State University

"Tell Them We Are Rising" trailer

The power of higher education to transform lives and advance civil rights and equality in the face of injustice will be revealed in a documentary premiering in February on Panhandle PBS.

Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities will air at 8 p.m. Feb. 19 on Independent Lens. It will begin streaming online Feb. 20.

Director Stanley Nelson, who is considered America’s foremost film chronicler of the African-American experience, details the story of the rise, influence and evolution of historically black colleges and universities. A haven for black intellectuals, artists, and revolutionaries — and a path of promise toward the American dream — HBCUs have educated the architects of freedom movements and cultivated leaders in every field while remaining unapologetically black for more than 150 years.

These institutions have nurtured some of the most influential Americans of our time, from Booker T. Washington to Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois to Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison to Oprah Winfrey, Alice Walker to Spike Lee to Common. 

In addition to the broadcast, Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities is the centerpiece of a yearlong multi-platform effort called HBCU Rising.

Featuring national partnerships (including The Black College Fund, Color of Change, Akila Worksongs, Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., United Negro College Fund, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Blackout for Human Rights and The Campaign for Black Male Achievement), exclusive events, StoryCorps audio stories, video shorts, an HBCU campus tour and a crowdsourced HBCU Digital Yearbook, HBCU Rising will examine and celebrate the legacy of HBCUs. For more information, visit

Panhandle PBS held an Indie Lens Pop-Up screening of the film Feb. 6.

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