Visualizing the Vital History and Future of HBCUs in America

John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. / 2022 / Education, Human Rights, Racial Equity

Hero image from the Visualizing the Vital History and Future of HBCUs in America project designed by Graphicacy


Scholar, educator, strategist and fundraiser John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. recruited Graphicacy to create compelling visuals for his new book and Keynote presentation on the promise of HBCUs for America.

Background and Challenge

For over 25 years, John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. has worked to advance socially conscious and purposeful education, particularly for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). His distinguished career includes tenures as Morehouse College president and executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs in the Obama Administration.

In 2023, John published his first book: Hope and Healing: Black Colleges and the Future of American Democracy. In it, he posits a realistic vision for a stronger America that includes elevating the nation’s HBCUs.

To bring his story to life and catalyze change, John needed impactful graphics that reinforced his main ideas—including the potential for HBCUs to heal American democracy and the global climate crisis.

John also wanted an accompanying presentation to promote his book, one that featured accessible and compelling data visualizations with evocative conceptual images to capture both the “head and heart” elements of his story.

Opportunity and Solution

John worked closely with a Graphicacy founding team member, Joshua Korenblat, to develop the book’s chart elements. The series of charts and graphs quickly drove home the points for John’s three primary audiences: major philanthropists capable of boosting HBCU endowments, HBCU leaders, and the higher education community as a whole.

Graphicacy used these chart elements as a starting point for a visually rich multimedia presentation using Apple’s Keynote tool. With the story framework in place, Graphicacy’s project design team combined video clips, photographs, charts and graphs with animated transitions and powerful conceptual illustrations to drive home John’s urgent messages.

For maximum versatility, Graphicacy designed an assortment of slides for John to easily add or subtract as needed. “Depending on who I’m talking to and where I am, I can modify my presentation to last 10 minutes or I can do up to an hour,” John said.

“The beauty of working with Graphicacy is that they got me,” he added. “They understood what was important to me and they rooted their creativity in that. Each time I got off of a call with them, I looked forward to seeing how they’d translate what I said into images. I was never disappointed and I almost didn’t want it to end.”

As for the reception John’s received so far: “I’ve been presenting on lots of campuses and at conferences, and I’m getting standing ovations,” he said. “It’s lots of fun, and I have Graphicacy to thank.”

Montage of four images from the Visualizing the Vital History and Future of HBCUs in America project, designed by Graphicacy for John Silvanus Wilson, Jr.

"I wanted the visuals to be crisp, clear and compelling, and a partner who understood that a picture can be worth far more than a million words. I found that with Graphicacy."

John Silvanus Wilson, Jr., Scholar, educator, strategist, and fundraiser

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