Current & Trending

More Than A Month: 1978

  • SHARE:

The year was 1978.  Muhammad Ali became the first heavyweight champion to win the title three times by defeating Leon Spinks.  Three Times a Lady by the Commodores was number ten on the Billboard chart.  Motown’s The Wiz was released in theaters across the country.  Ain’t Misbehavin, a tribute to black musicians of the Harlem Renaissance, opened on Broadway.  Dr. William R. Harvey became the twelfth and longest serving president of Hampton University, and I was ten months old visiting Hampton’s campus with my parents and great aunt.

Great Aunt Hazel had come to visit us in August of 1978 and wanted to tour the campus of Hampton Institute because her oldest brother, George, had graduated from there many years before. Mom and Dad agreed to take her. So we drove from Richmond, Virginia to visit the campus. Little did I know that Hampton University would eventually become my “Home by the Sea.”

During my junior and senior years of high school, I attended many college fairs and tours. The one thing that stood out the most was how Historically Black Colleges and Universities boasted about small class sizes. I was sold on that idea alone. There were many times I felt overlooked in high school because there were so many students in one class. Honestly, my goal was to attend school far away from my home in Chicago. I wanted to study graphic design and Hampton was one of the few HBCUs offering that degree. So, I applied to only one school: Hampton University. I was accepted and began my journey in the fall of 1995.

“The Standard of Excellence, An Education for Life” was the motto that greeted me when I first stepped foot on the campus as a freshman and I carry these words with me still. Throughout my undergraduate years, I was able to witness and experience excellence through education.

From 1995-1999, I had the opportunity to study under legendary artist John Biggers; witness the revitalization of the Hampton University Museum which houses the largest collection of work by Elizabeth Catlett and Jacob Lawrence; intern with NASA’s Microgravity as a graphic designer, learn a vast range of choral music composed by African Americans such as R. Nathaniel Dett, Moses Hogan and Roland Carter; manage local and national travel with the Hampton University Concert Choir; manage dormitory operations; gain the freshman sixteen and gain friends for life. 

My experience at Hampton taught me to strive for excellence in everything I do; honor those who sacrificed their lives for freedom and education; realize that spiritual growth is just as important as academic growth; and to always be prepared.

Word to Harvey.

Learn more about Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) this Thursday's with a virtual screening and discussion, More Than A Month: Tell Them We Are Rising. Learn More.

Carmen Jenkins-Frazier is an educator and PBS Digital Innovator in Washington, D.C. She teaches students how to use digital media as a tool to address social justice issues, environmental concerns, and to communicate ideas effectively. Carmen didn’t start her career journey looking to become a teacher. She began as a graphic artist but after finishing her degree, she says, she quickly realized her passion for academia and redirected her career goals toward education.

Cover Photo: Lisa Borre

Carmen Jenkins-Frazier

Carmen Jenkins-Frazier Art Teacher

Join the PBS Teachers Community

Stay up to date on the latest blog posts, content, tools, and more from PBS Education!