Stephen A. Smith Creating Docuseries Highlighting HBCUs with OWN’s ‘Black Love’ Director Codie Elaine Oliver


March 11, 2021

This feels like homecoming season!

Smith is creating a docuseries highlighting HBCUs with OWN’s Black Love director, Codie Elaine Oliver, Deadline reports.


ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith’s Mr. SAS Productions has partnered with Oliver’s Confluential Films (OWN’s Black Love), alongside Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owen’s Propagate (Hulu’s Hillary) to create a new documentary series shining a light on the history and importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).  

Black Excellence will focus on the impact HBCU’s have had across all genres of American life, from politics to sports and entertainment. The series will highlight prominent influencers who have attended HBCUs including, Vice President Kamala Harris, Senator Raphael Warnock, Stacey Abrams, Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, and many more.

Original interviews, archival footage, and media will come together to tell a story of the importance of HBCUs and how they have shaped careers, cultural watershed moments like Beyonce’s Homecoming, and historic elections like the one of 2020. The series will also examine the recent rise in notoriety and donations to these institutions by prominent celebrities like Michael B. Jordan, Chris Paul, Deion Sanders, and Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife MacKenzie Scott. 


Smith is a graduate of Winston Salem State University in North Carolina and spoke candidly about the impact of his HBCU on his life. 

“I was distracted by the streets, wondering when I was going to have meals, when I was going to have a roof over my head, and when you are preoccupied with those challenges, you are not worried as much about your education. It led to the system stereotyping and marginalizing you, questioning what you could do and what you could be because your grades and SAT score are the only thing they had to indicate what your potential was. When I went to an HBCU, I was surrounded by people who looked like me, who shared my cultural identity, shared my challenges, my trials and tribulations; I didn’t feel alone,” Smith said. 

The famed sports commentator expressed how the HBCU culture is directly responsible for the success of its students and how it serves as the backdrop for successful Black people like himself.


“Everywhere you turn – athletics, entertainment, politics, culture, corporate America – there’s excellence oozing from the [Black] community, despite the odds. And more often than not, there’s a connection to HBCUs along the way. Yet, somehow, we don’t hear enough about it. Quite frankly, that needs to change,” he added. 

Oliver will serve as director for the series, her first since her debut on OWN’s Black Love, which she co-created and directs. She is a 3rd generation Howard University alumna and is excited to executive produce Black Excellence under her Confluential Films banner in partnership with her husband, filmmaker Tommy Oliver. 

“Without HBCUs, I would not be who I am – which is a person whose grandmother attended Wiley College and grandfather attended Howard University, whose mother and father met at Howard University and became a lawyer and a doctor, respectively,” Oliver said. I grew up with infinite opportunities thanks to my parents’ and grandparents’ HBCU education, and there is nothing more deeply ingrained in me than the responsibility to celebrate and uplift the Black community. I am a 4th generation HBCU graduate, and it’s an honor to be able to tell this story and put into perspective HBCUs’ contributions to all of American life.” 


Propagate founder Owens spoke about the series, saying, “The story of HBCUs and the impact they’ve had on American society has never been told on a large scale. We are pleased to partner with Mr. SAS Productions and Confluential Films to shine the proper spotlight on their legacy of Black excellence. It’s time we tell these important and compelling stories, and Stephen A and Codie, both prominent HBCU grads who exemplify Black excellence and influence culture, are the right voices to represent HBCUs. We can’t wait for the world to fall in love with this project and HBCUs the way we all have.”  

Smith serves as Brand Ambassador for the HBCU Week Foundation and has hosted HBCU Week collegiate conferences which grant on-site registration for thousands of students and has awarded more than $11 million in scholarships. The series is an extension of his work as an advocate for HBCUs, which are just starting to get the notoriety and attention they deserve. 

“I’m honored to have both Propagate and Confluential Films partnering with me to tell the COMPLETE story of HBCUs once and for all. It’s about damn time!” said Smith.


No word yet on when Black Excellence will air, but we can’t wait!

Photos Courtesy of Deadline

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