Black history trivia night celebrates Chicago HBCUs

By Roderick Diamond II
Medill Reports

Chicago’s black history boasts famous personalities such as the late comedian Dick Gregory, founder of the Chicago Defender Robert Abbott and Dr. Margaret Taylor-Burroughs, who launched the DuSable Museum of African American History. The list goes on, but the city also has deep roots with alumni communities of historically black colleges and universities.

Some are from Howard University in Washington D.C., Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, all in Atlanta, and Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida gathered at Bar 22, on South Michigan Avenue for their annual black history trivia night Thursday.

The players celebrated  with drinks, fellowship and a fun game of trivia for competing alumni teams. After several questions per round, team representatives lined up to give their answers to judges who tallied points. A funny disagreement broke out over the correct spelling of the holiday Juneteenth.

A man whispered, “That’s not how you spell Juneteenth,” looking at her version showing Junetenth.

The women responded with a laugh, “Yes it is, I thought you could say June 10th?”

Originally called Freedom Day, Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery when the news finally reached slaves in Texas in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. That was one of the questions asked by the judges on trivia night.

The questions challenged teams’ knowledge of well-known black history facts and in depth Chicago black history. Bragging rights and a monetary award was on the line with alums of all ages participating.

Director of Economic Development of South Holland, John Watson graduated from Morehouse in 1987 and is a native of Chicago. He is the Region 5 Vice President of the Morehouse College alumni association, which includes Illinois.

“This is the third one of its kind, it was a lot of fun,” Watson said. “The turnout looked to be bigger than any of the others.”

Chicago, with its African American population of more than 800,000, always had a strong HBCU presence. The thing about HBCUs is that it’s a small world, and you are able to make a big place like Chicago small.”

A short intermission between rounds and everybody is mingling and conversing. ( Roderick Diamond II/MEDILL)

Watson talked about the networking opportunities of events such as these. From the academic ranks and the professional world, HBCU grads are in every possible field and are thriving. So opportunities like this are chances to broaden an individual’s network and make more connections.

Watson’s team won the trivia contest after a tight race with several other teams. Some of the questions included knowledge on the origins of jazz and Kwanzaa. Others tested their memory of change-makers  in Chicago such as former MayorHarold Washington and journalist Ida B. Wells.

“Tonight was an opportunity to self-reflect on our culture, a lot of questions presented tonight, showed that even if your struggle was hard; there was someone before you that had it even harder to get to where you are,” said Green.

Jessica Green is currently the president of the Howard Chicago Alumni Club and said she is appreciative of her experience in an HBCU community. Green’s case for the importance of HBCUs is simple and accurate.

“There are very few spaces where black people can be authentically black and HBCUs are one of those places,” Green said.” “It shows you different types of people that are black that don’t come from the same walk of life as you. We usually have this one narrative about black people and there are so many different types of black people and HBCUs have the ability to capture that.”

Only five HBCU alumni groups participated in this Chicago event but there are more than 100 across the country. Imagine the same event in Atlanta, Washington D.C. and New York. HBCUs may encompass a small world but they empowers something big and give it a monumental perspective.

Photo at top: The score amounts for the teams after a couple rounds of trivia. (Roderick Diamond II /MEDILL)