The HBCU Homecoming Experience | BestColleges (2024)

Discover the history and culture behind HBCU homecoming and its significance to HBCU students and alumni.

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Douglas L. AllenRead Full Bio

Contributing Writer

Douglas L. Allen, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of geography at Emporia State University in Kansas. As a researcher, he investigates how place-making is used to affirm, celebrate, and create joy for racially marginalized communities. His work on H...

Updated on September 29, 2023

Edited by

Cobretti D. Williams, Ph.D.Read Full Bio

Managing Editor

Cobretti D. Williams, Ph.D. (he/him), is a scholar, writer, and editor. Cobretti's research and writing focuses on the experiences of historically excluded students and faculty and staff in higher education. His work has been published in the Journal...

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Lorraine MumbyRead Full Bio

Editor & Writer

Lorraine Mumby is an editor for BestColleges who focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is passionate about equipping students with the tools to succeed and have meaningful, equitable educational experiences. Lorraine has a bachelor's degre...

With Insight from Alumni Aaron Johnson and Tonika Dew Evans

Learn more about our editorial process

By

Douglas L. AllenRead Full Bio

Contributing Writer

Douglas L. Allen, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of geography at Emporia State University in Kansas. As a researcher, he investigates how place-making is used to affirm, celebrate, and create joy for racially marginalized communities. His work on H...

Edited by

Cobretti D. Williams, Ph.D.Read Full Bio

Managing Editor

Cobretti D. Williams, Ph.D. (he/him), is a scholar, writer, and editor. Cobretti's research and writing focuses on the experiences of historically excluded students and faculty and staff in higher education. His work has been published in the Journal...

and

Lorraine MumbyRead Full Bio

Editor & Writer

Lorraine Mumby is an editor for BestColleges who focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is passionate about equipping students with the tools to succeed and have meaningful, equitable educational experiences. Lorraine has a bachelor's degre...

With Insight from Alumni Aaron Johnson and Tonika Dew Evans

Updated on September 29, 2023

Learn more about our editorial process

While many university homecomings come and go without much notice, homecomings at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are annual events that everyone circles on their calendars. These weeklong festivals often include alumni reunions, appearances by major celebrities, late-night parties, and great food. (If you haven't gone on a tour of the food tents at an HBCU homecoming yet, you've missed out).

The History of HBCU Homecoming

Homecoming at historically Black colleges and universities provide space and time to connect or reconnect with friends, the community, and, more broadly, Black culture.

While it is difficult to pinpoint a precise beginning to HBCU homecomings, the modern alumni-centered event surrounding a fall football game dates to at least Morehouse College's celebration in 1924.

HBCUs undoubtedly had alumni events before this. But over the years, homecoming has grown beyond the football game itself and alumni reunions. It's become a series of multi-day events that occur off and on campus, central to the HBCU experience and culture.

Why Homecoming Is Important to HBCU Culture

Homecoming is a highly anticipated event where different generations of HBCU students and alumni students and alumni connect forge relationships.

HBCU students have the chance to showcase their talents and connect to Black culture — past and present — at weeklong festivities. Students can learn firsthand about the history of their university and the surrounding communities.

"My first HBCU homecoming was in 2016, my freshman year of college," said Aaron Johnson, a Morehouse College alum. "I had never seen that many Black people enjoying themselves in one place. Every corner of our campus was packed with alumni, celebrities, politicians, and current students — all celebrating a shared experience of going to an HBCU, which was awesome."

Homecoming, as many have described, is a kind of family reunion, where alumni come back to give back and reconnect to their alma mater. Meanwhile, students celebrate Black excellence — past and present — and build deeper connections to their campus community and the broader alumni network.

Homecoming as Alumni

Planning

Homecoming is planned by alumni, coordinated between friends, and prepared for — particularly monetarily — throughout the year. HBCU alumni make it a priority to enjoy themselves and recharge from the day-to-day grind of postgraduate life.

Mentorship

Alumni involvement in homecoming is vital to HBCU culture. However, it also is beneficial for students and the university. Especially successful alumni often come back to speak at events and to classrooms as role models and mentors.

Fundraising

For alumni, it's also a chance to give back to the university.

For the university, homecoming is an important fundraising time. In fact, it may be the most important fundraising period for a school. Major donations are often made to the university. These donations are celebrated at halftime of the homecoming football game.

Alumni from the "Divine Nine" — the original Black fraternities and sororities — often donate large sums of money for scholarships. These donations can be vital to the financial standing and success of the university.

However, an HBCU homecoming experience is more than just donations and alumni reliving their glory days. It's also a celebration of Black excellence and Black culture. And a way to build community across generations and geographies.

What to Expect at HBCU Homecoming

Each HBCU has its own unique traditions — the Lighting of the Sign at North Carolina's Winston-Salem State University, for example. However, there are a number of elements of an HBCU homecoming that should be familiar to all HBCU alumni, students, and fans.

Preparation

Decorations begin to go up the weekend before homecoming week. This marks the start of festivities and fills the community and campus with anticipation for the events ahead.

This is followed by activities, classroom alumni visits, and intense practice sessions held by HBCU marching bands and other organizations performing during homecoming week.

Events

The campus is alive with "strolling" fraternity members, block parties, and tons of food. There are many popular events to experience and enjoy. These include the homecoming parade, the coronation (the ceremony for the homecoming king and queen — and their court), fashion shows, step shows, and often a music festival with high-profile celebrity performers.

Football and Halftime

By the time the football game — with its highly anticipated halftime show — starts on Saturday, the campus is packed with alumni, students, and fans. When not at the game, many can be found standing in lines at the food tents. Music, the aroma of food, and school pride fill the campus space as people tailgate and file into the stadium.

How to Get Involved in HBCU Homecoming

Looking to get involved in an HBCU homecoming celebration? The best way to be part of the festivities is to join an on-campus organization.

Most organizations on HBCU campuses participate in homecoming. They may serve as sponsors for events like the fashion show, homecoming parade, or annual car shows.

Fashion show: If you love to strut your stuff, consider auditioning to model for the fashion show.

Student government: Join the student government association, and you could be on a student homecoming committee.

Greek life: If you are already thinking about or part of a fraternity or sorority, then join your organization's homecoming steering committee.

Attend Homecoming

Homecoming is at the center of HBCU culture and the HBCU experience. This event creates important cultural spaces. Homecoming celebrates Black joy and connects the past, present, and future of the HBCU, Black culture, and Black excellence.

Depending on your talents and interests, there are many ways to get involved with this annual celebration.

Meet the Alumni

The HBCU Homecoming Experience | BestColleges (10)

Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson is a 2020 graduate from Morehouse College, where he majored in marketing and minored in journalism. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in data analytics at Columbia University in New York City. His personal interests include listening to and playing music, film, photography, and television. His professional background includes experience with music tech and ad agencies. With his degree, he hopes to develop a more data-driven approach to content marketing in entertainment spaces. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aaron-johnson-3517862a/

The HBCU Homecoming Experience | BestColleges (11)

Tonika Dew Evans

Tonika Dew Evans is a licensed professional counselor and certified professional counselor supervisor. She identifies as a social service advocate with an aim to positively impact the lives of individuals and families. This passion has proven to be an asset in her work as an administrator, in program management and development, and while serving on the boards of social service organizations. Currently, she provides counseling and consulting services through her company, All In Dew Time, LLC. Tonika attended Tennessee State University.

The HBCU Homecoming Experience | BestColleges (2024)

FAQs

The HBCU Homecoming Experience | BestColleges? ›

Homecoming is a highly anticipated event where different generations of HBCU students and alumni students and alumni connect forge relationships. HBCU students have the chance to showcase their talents and connect to Black culture — past and present — at weeklong festivities.

What happens at an HBCU homecoming? ›

Every year students and alumni gather on HBCU campuses across the country to celebrate their respective schools during events including concerts, parties, tailgating, networking opportunities and, of course, football.

What HBCU has the biggest homecoming? ›

As the largest HBCU, North Carolina A&T State University is known for providing “the Greatest Homecoming on Earth.” Each year, the school shows its legendary “Aggie” (achieving great goals in everything) pride,, especially at the step show – one of the school's most popular events.

Which HBCU is called Black Harvard? ›

Howard University has often been referred to as “The Harvard of HBCUs.”

Which unique experience does an HBCU provide for students? ›

With HBCUs' special focus, your college experience will be one surrounded by many people with similar backgrounds and cultural experiences. You'll experience a unique community of support and understanding among faculty and your fellow students.

Why is homecoming so important at an HBCU? ›

Homecoming Season serves not only as a time for alumni and current students to commemorate the history of their institution but also an opportunity to reflect and celebrate the contributions of HBCUs to American history.

What to expect at homecoming? ›

Although traditions may vary by school, it is typically defined by a football game followed by a semi-formal dance. There may even be a parade or a school spirit week in conjunction with the occasion. Some schools may also use it as a time to welcome back alumni for a special dinner or reunion.

What is the richest HBCU in America? ›

According to data from National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA-CREF, as of June 30, 2022, the largest HBCU endowment was $863 million at Howard University, Washington; followed by Spelman College, Atlanta, with $459 million.

What is the most prestigious HBCU in America? ›

Howard University

Can whites attend HBCU? ›

While the majority of students at HBCUs may be Black, people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, including white students, attend and are part of these campuses.

Which HBCU has the most white students? ›

West Virginia State University reports a student population that is about 72 percent white and less than 9 percent Black. Similarly, Bluefield State University, also in West Virginia, has a Black student population of 14 percent and a white student population of 78 percent.

Can you go to Howard University if you're white? ›

Students Tell Their Story

Howard University, an Historically Black College and University (HBCU), has recently experienced a higher percentage of white students. Mignon Hemsley explores the question as to how it feels to be white and attend an HBCU.

Which HBCU has the most famous alumni? ›

Famous Alumni from HBCUs: Impact on Society and Legacy
  • Toni Morrison (Howard University)
  • Martin Luther King Jr. ( Morehouse College)
  • Maya Angelou (Wiley College)
  • Oprah Winfrey (Tennessee State University)
  • Thurgood Marshall (Lincoln University)
Feb 8, 2023

Why is HBCU so special? ›

Before the Civil Rights movement, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) offered Black Americans one of their only routes to a college degree. These institutions helped Black Americans pursue professional careers, earn graduate degrees, and advance their education in an inclusive environment.

What famous person went to HBCU? ›

HBCU Alumni in the Limelight
HBCU AlumniFieldNotable Work
Oprah WinfreyMedia/PhilanthropyThe Oprah Winfrey Show
Samuel L. JacksonActingPulp Fiction, Marvel Cinematic Universe
Spike LeeFilm DirectingDo the Right Thing, Malcolm X
Toni MorrisonLiteratureBeloved, Song of Solomon
23 more rows

How long is HBCU homecoming? ›

Homecoming is more than just a football game, it's a week of events that allow students and alumni to come together to celebrate the vibrant history and culture that can only be experienced on a HBCU campus.

What is the HBCU homecoming season? ›

Current students, alumni, and their friends come together to embrace school pride and honor the legacy of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) during homecoming.

Who gets to attend homecoming? ›

Typically played on a Friday night, it brings together alumni, students, and the community to support their school and team. Alumni events: Homecoming isn't just for current students – it's also a chance for alumni to come back and reconnect with their alma mater.

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