How is a fictitious Historically Black College and University so relevant in today’s time? First, you’d have to retreat back into the 1980’s. A stand up comedy legend and actor named Bill Cosby was making great strides in the entertainment industry. He was looked at as one of the pioneers and ground breakers in the entertainment industry. Appearing in various movies and television shows, Cosby had become a popular household name… In 1984, Cosby had his hand in creating one arguably of the most monumental television sitcoms of the era. The Cosby Show showed that an African-American family can both parents married and living in the same house, be highly educated, hard working and wealthy, a successful medical doctor and lawyer in their own right, yet be very balanced and functioning parents. Along with having “normal” studious and respectful children. Having such a television show that was extremely popular and led the way in overall ratings year after year, showed success. But the real success was that The Cosby Show provided an immense improvement of the image of AfricanAmerican people. Most black people at that time was often portrayed as dishonest or lazy people, obnoxious and uneducated, crooks and criminals, poor and impoverished, or grossly subservient to others. This new image allowed people to see that it is possible to have a black family that is successful, wealthy, educated, honest, and hardworking.
Bill Cosby has always been a heavy advocate for education and advancement. In 1987, he wanted to create a spin-off show based around his second television child “Denise Huxtable”, going to the same HBCU college that her parents and grandparents attended. The new show was going to run in parallel with The Cosby Show, but have a unique flavor and different targeted audience. A Different World was based off how students transition into college, the issues that are often presented while in college, and transitioning out into the next phase.
This is when the Virginia based institution of higher learning, Hillman College was established.
From the inaugural season of 1987 up until the last season in 1993. The show was EXTREMELY popular and highly significant with African American people. The show was said to made college look cool and interesting. Because of the popularity of the show, there was a vast increase of HBCU interest, attendance, and enrollment between this time frame.
Hillman College doesn’t exist in real life, however it was the common thread that could bring us together. You might be hard pressed to find a person that doesn’t know what Hillman College is. It can just about be used in the same breath as The Cosby Show… For it had the same positive impact. Creating a positive image among African American people. First showing that the family can have both parents in the house, educated and professional… Then showing that when you graduate high school, you can go to college and achieve your goals. It wasn’t just a fictitious college in Virginia, but Hillman College represents an era of great empowerment, elevation, and endless possibilities for the black race!
Even though Hillman name is known more by the late Baby Boomer generation up to Generation X, you still have a few people very knowledgeable about what Hillman College represents born as late as the late 1990’s. We should always stay reminded of what can happen if we are united together, uplift one another, and motivate and encourage each other. If you work hard, stay the course, and surround yourself with positive like minded people… You WILL be successful! You don’t have to be the victim of your environment or circumstances, but you can overcome them! If you become successful, reach back and pull someone else up higher! –- Hillman, it’s not just a name, it’s POWER!
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