“I know my parents love me, stand behind me come what may…”
What millennial doesn’t know the iconic theme song from A Different World?
The Cosby Show spinoff followed Cliff and Claire’s spirited daughter Denise as she navigated life at Hillman College and introduced millions of viewers to the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) experience.
Featuring a predominantly black cast and guest stars like Tupac, Patti LaBelle, Diahann Carroll, Tisha Campbell-Martin, En Vogue, Billy Dee Williams, and even Olivia Pope’s mama and daddy (Khandi Alexander and Joe Morton), A Different World explored issues like racism, date rape, AIDS,
discrimination, and police brutality through the eyes of students at an HBCU.
Directed by Howard University alumnae Debbie Allen, the show masterfully explained the issues facing African Americans in the 90’s and taught social and political lessons each week. College enrollment and graduation rates rose as black students saw themselves reflected in the characters on screen.
According to current president of Dillard University, Walter Kimbrough, “From the debut of “The Cosby Show” in 1984 until the end of “A Different World” in 1993, American higher education grew by 16.8 percent.
During the same time period, historically black colleges and universities grew by 24.3 %—44 % better than all of higher education.”
BET’s new series The Quad, doesn’t exactly pick up where Dwayne, Whitley, Kim, Freddie and Ron left off, but it’s definitely showing the many sides of HBCU life.
The show follows Anika Noni Rose, who stars as Dr. Eva Fletcher, the new president of Georgia A&M University.
Centered on a troubled marriage, rebellious daughter, and a steamy affair, Eva’s got enough
problems—but trying to save the school from bankruptcy and the ruthless leader of the marching band may be more than she can handle.
With scenes shot on Morehouse University’s historic campus, The Quad gives viewers a look at what the black college experience is all about– and, like A Different World, may even raise college enrollment.
“If I could affect those people who don’t think college is an option, my job would be done,” the show’s executive producer Felicia D. Henderson told The Root. “Maybe if they saw that there’s an opportunity to go somewhere where people look like them and where their excellence and intelligence is normal and not questioned, and that it’s expected. That’s just a cool thing. And that’s one of the things I love about my experience of the HBCU.”