Fisk University 

The Bulldogs

The Bulldogs

Population: 850

Location: 1000 17th Avenue North, next to Watkins Park

Founded: In 1866 by the American Missionary Association to educate newly freed slaves. It is the oldest university in Nashville.

Famous Graduates: W.E.B. DuBois (sociologist, author & civil rights pioneer), James Weldon Johnson (poet), John Hope Franklin (author and professor), Nikki Giovanni (poet), Kym Whitley (actress), John Lewis (U.S. Rep), Matthew Knowles (entertainment manager, Beyonce's father)

Notable Accomplishment: In its January 2003 issue, Black Enterprise Magazine ranked Fisk University 22 of the top 50 best colleges and universities for African American students.

Where can I park?

Parking is limited on campus, so if you want to park, get a good spot quickly. There is some parking around the dorms for students, but if you park outside an assigned area you could be slapped with a ticket or even towed. You can pick up a parking pass at the beginning of the year for $100.

What professor or course will change my life?

Fisk students are very interested in the history and heritage of both their school and their ethnicity. English professor Dr. Collins is a living link to that past—he's been at Fisk since the Harlem Renaissance. Linda Wynn's African American history class is highly recommended, as are Reavis Mitchell's and James Qurin's. Science is also widely studied at Fisk, so if that's your forte, take Princilla Evans for chemistry and Phyllis Freeman-Junior for biology. If you are interested in the arts, Persephone Felder-Fentress is popular for drama, as well as LiFran Fort for art.

What are campus media like?

Fisk's radio station, 88.1 WFSK, has been around since 1973. The frequency reaches about 900,000 listeners, and plays a mix of jazz, reggae, salsa and gospel. Fisk's Web site is the best way to find out what's happening around campus. There's a calendar posted and tons of updated information about upcoming events.

What is there to do on campus?

There are always big events going on like Homecoming, the Spring Arts Festival, gym parties and Greek parties. Homecoming week is a full-blown celebration starting with a bonfire, fashion show and karaoke. It ends with concerts, step-shows and parties. Fraternities and sororities are always hosting formals and throwing the biggest parties, but there is no drinking allowed on campus. Students can often be seen out and about anywhere on West End, but especially at Chili's or bowling.

What is dorm life like?

You must live on campus as a freshman, and most students stay on campus until their junior or senior years. Freshmen ladies live in Jubilee Hall, while freshmen guys live in Livingston. There are no visitation rights between guys and girls in those dorms, and the curfew is midnight all week. Each dorm sets its own quiet hours, but students say that's not an enforced rule. Upperclassmen can (and many do) opt to live in suites at coed Shane Hall.

How are the athletics?

Fisk has no football team, but there are guys' and girls' teams of other sports such as tennis, volleyball, soccer and cross-country. Students also participate in intramurals like flag football. The biggest sport at Fisk is basketball, and the Bulldogs get a lot of student and community support for their games. In 2003, the men's team won the 2003 Great South Athletic Conference Championship. Also, the Bulldogs beat their rivals, TSU, the past two years.

Who are the Jubilee Singers?

The Jubilee Singers are a nationally acclaimed group that tour across the country and all over the world. PBS recently aired a special about their story called The Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory. The Jubilee Singers began touring in 1871, with only nine members, to earn money for school. They toured across Europe and raised enough money to help fund Jubilee Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus. The U.S. Department of Interior named the hall a national historic landmark. Jubilee Hall also contains a floor-to-ceiling-sized portrait of the singers given by Queen Victoria when they toured Europe in the 1870s.

What is the dating scene like?

It's kind of tough because the ratio is 7-to-1 girls to guys. Many students have significant others or casually date people from other universities, so there's some getting around the ratio problem. Although not a lot of hooking up goes on, there are also not a lot of serious couples either. You will have the occasional engaged or married couple in class with you, but don't expect them all over campus.

Are the arts big on campus?

Huge. There are two galleries on campus: the Carl Van Vechten Gallery and the Aaron Douglas Gallery. The Van Vechten was the first gallery on campus and was made from a renovated gym that housed over 100 of Georgia O'Keefe's paintings. Carl Van Vechten was a photographer and art critic who helped transfer the paintings in the 40s. The Aaron Douglas Gallery continually changes exhibitions from both a temporary and a permanent collection. There is also the blowout Spring Art Festival. This is when Fisk's theater department puts on their big productions (which are always sold out), students can display their artwork in the galleries and their popular dance company Orchesis performs.

What is the Race Relations Institute?

The Race Relations Institute at Fisk University is an organization that involves itself with the most pressing issues that face blacks not just in America, but around the world. The institute began as a series of lectures given by Fisk's Charles S. Johnson in 1942. Today, the Race Relations Institute regularly achieves amazing goals in the name of bettering race relations. In 1995, Kemba Smith, a 23-year-old woman with no previous police record, was sentenced to 24-and-a-half years in prison on cocaine trafficking charges for her association with a drug-dealing boyfriend. After six years of intense lobbying, the Race Relations Institute successfully convinced President Clinton to grant a presidential pardon.

In September 2000, James Perkins, an Alabama businessman, successfully defeated incumbent Joe Smitherman, and became the first black mayor of Selma, Ala. Smitherman, a former segregationist, had been mayor since before "Bloody Sunday," the 1965 Montgomery-to-Selma march in which 600 peaceful protesters were attacked by state police. RRI program director Naomi Tutu, daughter of Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, sponsored a trip in which 26 volunteers traveled from Nashville to Selma and helped transport African American citizens of Selma to the polls, thus helping James Perkins achieve enough votes to win. Perkins ended up with 57 percent of the vote, Smitherman with 43 percent.

Fisk students are very proud of the RRI's accomplisments, but it's is not without opponents, for it regularly deals with both social and political controversies, such as its advocacy for slave reparations.

Through the RRI, scholars, policy makers, grassroots activists and many more come together and try to rid America of its nearly 400-year-old race problem, or, at the very least, make it a little bit better. With a small budget and staff, the RRI has managed to conduct racial tolerance training for such federal agencies as the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor and the U.S. Army.

What should people know about Fisk that they don't already?

Fisk shouldn't be underestimated. Despite its small size, Fisk is a powerhouse. Students are very academically driven and pride themselves on how well-rounded they are after graduation. Students can participate not only in athletics but also in debate and choir. Proportionally, more Fisk graduates go on to earn Ph.D.'s than any other minority graduates in schools across the country.

—By Liz Gay


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