Blog

Bennett College: An HBCU with the Belles of Legacy


My goal is to visit every Historically Black College and University (HBCU). There are 101 schools reaching through the South and much of the eastern seaboard. I had visited Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morris Brown College, and Spelman College, all also known as the Atlanta University (AU) Center, Howard University, Xavier University, Fisk University, Meharry Medical School, and Hampton University. 

Bennett College, an all women’s HBCU in Greensboro, North Carolina, put me back on the trajectory in 2019 to meet my goal. The school, early in that year, was on the verge of losing its accreditation. The hashtag #StandWithBennett raised awareness about the college needing to raise a significant amount of money within a close deadline. The money was raised in time. I contributed as well. I did not want another HBCU to close. I also had not heard of this school, which prompted me to write my list of four-year HBCUs to visit. There are also community colleges among HBCUs. 

Bennett College is a sprawling campus mere minutes from North Carolina A&T University, which has more modern buildings on a sprawling, older campus. Bennett has a beautiful lawn with trees perched along the foundation. A campus officer kindly helped me navigate where to park. 

At many of the schools I visit, I purchase a t-shirt or a commemorative trinket. At every school, I take a picture of the entrance because t-shirts are also expensive. I visited Bennett during the sweltering southern heat in early August. I had the blessed experience to be led on an impromptu tour of the school by a Bennett Belle father named Darris. He sold school t-shirts. His daughter graduated this Spring. He showed me the gravesite where vicious gossip goes to rest. Each piece of gossip had a gravestone. I walked through the gorgeous Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke. The dining hall smelled of fried food and freedom. I walked past Willa B. Player Hall. Player was the first African-American woman to become a president of a fully accredited liberal college, which was at Bennett College. Dr. Player also brought Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to speak at the school in 1958.

In the time since Bennett College, I have visited twenty-five HBCUs. Walking around each storied campus was a powerful experience. I have a number of schools lined up to visit this year. 

You can support Bennett College through the Stand With Bennett website in association with the college. The book, Belles of Liberty: Gender, Bennett College, and the Civil Rights Movement by Linda Beatrice Brown centers the historic lunch counter protests that began in Greensboro, North Carolina that was led by four young Black men from North Carolina A&T and propelled by planning on Bennett College’s campus with the hundreds of women for the Civil Rights Movement.

I will also note that although Bennett College is billed as a women’s college, it also admits students who do not fit the gender binary.

Ashley Paul is a hopeless wanderer, baker, runner, and photographer. She is passionate about supporting high school juniors and seniors to write compelling stories for their post-secondary careers. Her favorite genres are young adult, literary fiction, and memoir.

Comments:

  1. Much love to HBCUs and women’s colleges! I am also a Belle, not a Bennett Belle but a Saint Mary’s Belle. Great post, Ashley!

    1. Ashley

      Thank you, Renee! I’m happy to share my experience and uplift this school.

  2. Darris Adkins

    Hey Ashley not sure how this popped up in my Google news but I’m sure glad it did. It was my pleasure to show you around our beloved Bennett. I am the Bennett Parent Association President and my Daughter the 40th Miss Bennett actually graduated this spring 2021. I appreciate you writing about this magical place for Women especially Black Women. As a father of a phenomenal Belle Alumna I couldn’t be more proud of what my daughter has accomplished already and what remains to be seen. My hope is that others will be able to seize their opportunity to grow at Bennett College.

    Ps let me know if you need another T-shirt…I’ve got a few connections.

    Great Article-
    Mr. Darris Adkins
    Bennett College BPA President

    1. Myra L. White

      Great job!!
      I am interested in purchasing a T-Shirt. Please let me know what I need to do.
      Thanks
      Myra White

    2. LaTrina Antley

      Hello,
      I’m in need of some clarity. My daughter came an visited the college some time ago, and simple fell in love with the school. I not going to lye I was against her attending the school due to its recent issues. Calling and trying to speak to someone during the pandemic was hard. But, I want to support my daughter in any decisions and try to safeguard her from mistakes.. With that being said I would love to speak to parents of students that have attended the university.

      1. Ashley

        Hi LaTrina, with COVID restrictions subsiding it may be easier to contact the school directly. As you may read from the comments, these women, and many their family members, had a wonderful and poignant experience at Bennett College. I love your concern for your daughter’s education. She will land where she is supposed to be.

      2. LaTrina, I am a graduate of Bennett College class of ‘92. I am still very much a part of the lives of many Belles. My first trip after being vaccinated was to Los Angeles to a garden party sponsored by the Alumna chapter. I met so many beautiful, recently graduated, impressive young ladies who talked about Bennett and I was amazed the their stories were the same as mine and many other women almost 30 years ago.. The love, the care, the molding,, the preparation, the exploration, the opportunities and the sisterhood are still available and amazing. Girls come to Bennett in many ways, but girls stay at Bennett because “everybody loves Bennett”. If you want to chat or maybe connect with other Belles contact me. I’d love for you to talk to other students, parents and I can easily connect you with someone on campus. We Belles stay connected. And tell my future Bennett Sister, I said, hello.

  3. Well done article about this little private jewel of the South. I am a proud alumni.
    Thank you for keeping our legacy alive.
    Venus McDowell-Medlin

  4. April Yvonne Hodges, Ph.D., LN

    Thank you for taking the time to visit and write this charming piece about my beloved alma mater. I am a very proud Bennett Belle and I owe a lot of my academic success to the personal friendships, inspiring history and scholastic rigor of this wonderful institution. It is where I was greeted by professors as “Doctor” during the first day of my matriculation. Bennett truly saw more in me than I did at that time. The consistent support, prophetic words of success, spiritual covering, sisterly network yielding lifelong friendships, cultual enrichment, leadership opportunities, and family push became the foundation as to why I am now a doctor and a civil servant!! I love my dear old Bennett College!! Thank you, again!!

    1. Thank you, Dr. Hodges for reading. I’m glad Bennett College gave you a profound perspective and education.

  5. Demetria Bell Anderson

    Bennett Belle c/o 99 here! Thank you for telling our story! I love Bennett College!

  6. Rita Deans Brown

    Ms. Paul, I am second generation Bennett Belle. My mother was from class of 1942 and I am from class of 1971. Of course I hope that there will be more Belles in the years to come. I’m glad that you enjoyed your visit and please return with perspective students.

    1. Hi Ms. Brown,

      I’m in awe of the legacy you and your mother have to Bennett College. I hope for more Belles to come as well. Thank you for reading.

  7. Carla Crocheron

    Love the article! Thank you from a C/O ‘89 Belle 🔔💙

  8. Cassandra Brown

    My oldest daughter will be a junior Belle at Bennett this fall and now her younger sister will follow in her footsteps as a freshwoman Belle. I too had never heard of Bennett until my daughter asked me to drive her up, from FL, for the summer 2019 2- day orientation. She really missed being on campus her sophomore year and is excited to return. Thank you for your beautiful piece on Bennett.

    1. Ashley

      Hi Cassandra, thank you for reading. I’m excited for your daughter to return to campus. I hope she has a wonderful year.

  9. Janeeka Huggins

    Love this article.. Thank you for putting word out there about Dear Ol Bennett. C/O 08

    1. Ashley

      Hi Janeeka, thank you for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

  10. Avanti

    Thank you for the great article.
    Bennett Belle Class of ’86

    1. Ashley

      Hi Avanti, thank you for reading the article!

  11. Monete Michelle Herring

    Thank you for writing of my beloved school as a recent graduate of Bennett i too fell inlove with the school. It has helped mold me into the women I am today. Without Bennett College my oasis i would have been lost.

    1. Ashley

      Thank you for sharing your experience at Bennett, Monete. I am glad you found your oasis at the school.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *