About Us

The story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) began before the Civil War and influenced the course of our nation yet remains one of America’s most important untold stories. Until now.

Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities is the first and only feature documentary and multi-platform project to research, gather, and share a rich mosaic of stories that relay the history of HBCUs.

Tell Them We Are Rising is being produced by Firelight Films and directed by master documentarian Stanley Nelson, producer of The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and other award-winning films that illuminate the rich experiences of African-Americans. It is slated to air in February 2018 on the PBS prime-time series Independent Lens. The project is funded with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Lumina Foundation.

The telling of this story is long overdue. HBCUs have been at the margins of the American collective conscience despite their role in shaping Black life, dismantling desegregation and birthing and growing the Black middle class. Tell Them We Are Rising’s compelling narrative and original footage will show Americans that, HBCUs have touched all Americans—regardless of race. HBCUs deserve respect, support and a prominent place in our historical and contemporary understanding of higher education.

This project comes at the right time. HBCUs are at a crossroads. Many are in financial stress and face possible closure. Many Americans question their relevance in a post-segregated nation. Tell Them We Are Rising will provide a national forum to explore and discuss a path forward for the nation’s 100-plus HBCUs.

Tell Them We Are Rising is a story for everyone. The film and supporting multimedia platform will expertly connect snapshots from a long and rich history to contemporary understandings of HBCUs. It will inspire debate, conversation, pride and memories that are necessary to understand the past and chart the future of HBCUs.

You can be part of Tell Them We Are Rising. Firelight Films needs your help to create the #HBCURising Digital Yearbook, a crowd-sourced archive highlighting HBCU life from the first school’s founding to present day. Please share anything that connects you and your family to the unique HBCU experience including: photos, articles, grandparent and/or great grand-parent letters and journal entries, videos, transcripts, and/or short stories of personal encounters with HBCU students or at HBCUs.

Forget what you think you know. Tell Them We Are Rising will shed new light on the inspirational path HBCUs have traveled from their inception as schools to educate the families of formerly enslaved Americans  to the challenges they face today for investment and understanding.