Author and NPR Weekend Edition Sunday host Ayesha Rascoe kicks off her book tour next week on the campus of Winston-Salem State University. The new anthology is HBCU Made: A Celebration of the Black College Experience, edited and with an introduction by Rascoe. It features a collection of 16 essays by HBCU alumni luminaries including Oprah Winfrey, Branford Marsalis, and Stacey Abrams each sharing their candid and often highly personal experiences about education, campus life, and how attending an HBCU shaped them. Rascoe spoke with WFDD’s David Ford.

Interview Highlights 

On the importance of legacy:

"I went to Howard University. And so you know, the alumni that went there from Thurgood Marshall to Phylicia Rashad to Toni Morrison to Zora Neale Hurston, I mean, Isabel Wilkerson, on and on, it meant so much to be able to say that you walk the grounds that these luminaries also walked. So, you do feel like you are standing on the shoulders of giants. It can be pressure, but it also can feel like, if I'm here, if I'm walking the same grounds that they walked, if I'm going in some of the same buildings, maybe I can make something of myself as well — not to be the same as them, but maybe there's something that I can do. And I think that's what Howard kind of sowed in me, this idea that maybe there's something that I can do that would also be meaningful and helpful to the world."

On HBCUs as safe havens:

"I think that we see over and over in the book and, you know, Stacey Abrams says in a really beautiful way that Spellman was, quote, '...the place where I had the ability to see more of myself.' And I feel like that's what so many people expressed is like she was able to see herself outside of this lens that can look at you as a Black woman, or a Black person and look at you as less than, or look at you as different, as set apart, but not in a good way. And I think that HBCUs give a safe haven where you can, you know, make your mistakes, you can grow, you can learn, but it's not looked at as a reflection of your humanity, and you're able to grow without that. Not that there's not challenges and problems and all sorts of things and I want to be clear HBCUs are not perfect, but I think that it does provide a lot of people with a safe haven to really grow into themselves."

On Ayesha Rascoe's big takeaway from Howard University:

"I definitely learned to look at things in a way — when I say critical, I don't mean looking at it in a negative way — but I really mean looking at it in a thoughtful way, to interrogate the world around you, and not to just look at the status quo and say, 'well, it's always been this way.' And so that's the way it should be. But to look at how did things arrive this way. You know, it's not just a coincidence, when you have, you know, a lack of Black home ownership in a certain area. That didn't just happen to happen, right? Like to look at, like, why are things the way that they are? And I think so many times when you're not in that position, you can just look at things and fall into these tropes as if, well, if Black people are scoring lower on a test, well, maybe they just don't know enough. When you know, I can look at it and say, 'Well, no, I know a whole lot.' So maybe there's something else going on. And I think that's what I got from Howard is to be able to look at things and to see like that there is a bigger picture, and that there is context and to challenge the status quo."

On February 12, Rascoe will launch her book tour in the Donald J. Reaves Student Center on the campus of Winston-Salem State University

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