HBCU family, we all know that historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, have a lot of rich history and these institutions graduate a significant amount of black professionals across many fields like lawyers, doctors, engineering and entertainment.
On the surface, you would think that HBCUs do a great job at recording important events throughout the decades and have it archived, making it possible for those after us to witness a legacy that can never be undone. But that is not the case with many black colleges.
“I know we made recordings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, James Farmer, Roy Wilkins, Ralph Abernathy and many others,” read Jocelyn Robinson from an email she had gotten from a school in North Carolina. “The library has since moved to a newer facility, and I don’t know if those tapes made the transition or if they were thrown away.”
Robinson revealed this fact during an interview with NPR where she spoke in regards to the email response she had received from the school. She is on a year-long project to find out if HBCUs have any recording and whether [or not] they have been properly achieved on campus in libraries.
NPR’s Sophia Alvarez Boyd said “Preservation is time-consuming and costly work. And HBCUs tend to have limited funding and much smaller endowments than non-HBCUs. In some places, Robinson has seen cassette tapes and floppy disks thrown into unlabeled boxes or bags, reel-to-reel tape that’s past repair. At one school, she says, there wasn’t anything saved from over 40 years of broadcasting. So Robinson is trying to get more schools at least thinking about preserving what they’ve got.”
Robinson responded, “I’ve come to find that very few radio stations have a relationship at all with the archivist on their campus.”