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The Hilltop 100: Pulitzer Winner Isabel Wilkerson Serves as Keynote Speaker for The Hilltop’s Centennial Gala

Along with the gala, The Hilltop’s Centennial Celebration Committee scheduled a full weekend of activities during the first week of Black History Month

An archival photo of The Hilltop staff in 1946 with the LIFE Magazine

To celebrate the centennial anniversary of Howard University’s student newspaper, The Hilltop, a gala at the National Press Club in downtown Washington D.C. will be held on February 3.  

Isabel Wilkerson, the first Hilltop alum to win the Pulitzer Prize with her reporting at The New York Times’ Chicago bureau, will serve as the gala’s keynote speaker.  

The Hilltop was founded by Howard alumni Zora Neale Hurston, the Harlem Renaissance writer and member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., and Louis E. King, debater and anthropologist. The Hilltop is the oldest Black collegiate newspaper in America and was named after the University alma mater. 

Since its first issue printed on January 22, 1924, The Hilltop has served as a trusted media platform for student voice and a working space to sharpen and educate the Black storytellers of America.  

The Hilltop’s centennial celebration theme is “Honoring Our Past. Celebrating Our Future,” as alums will return to the nation’s capital to pay tribute to Hurston’s and King’s vision. 

“We just felt like we were as bright and Black as we wanted to be, and we were unapologetic about it. I thought that’s how we carried and presented ourselves at the Hilltop,” said Ira Porter, The Hilltop’s editor-in-chief during the 2001-2002 academic year.  

Jasper Smith, the current editor-in-chief, is part of the gala’s planning committee and said that the slate of events is a moment to reflect on The Hilltop’s significance as a component of the University’s history and a singular entity that stands on its own.  

“As the days draw nearer to The Hilltop’s 100th anniversary and the centennial gala, I grow even more excited about the opportunity to see so many Hilltop alumni from all over the country back in one place to celebrate the publication that is dear to our hearts,” Smith wrote in a statement. “I believe this large celebration is a testament not only to the importance of The Hilltop but also to the spirit of community and excellence at Howard University.” 

Additional Events to Celebrate The Hilltop’s Centennial 

Along with the gala and Wilkerson’s keynote address, additional events are slated to commemorate The Hilltop’s standing legacy as Howard’s hub for student voice. “The Hilltop brought us to one another, but Howard brought us to The Hilltop,” Smith said of the celebrations. 

On Thursday, February 1, the Moorland-Spingarn Research will host a gallery of The Hilltop’s iconic and distinctive front pages in Founders’ Library. MSRC, the world’s largest archive of the Black experience throughout the diaspora, houses a digital archive of every issue of The Hilltop until 2010, readily available for online access.  

Friday, a fireside chat at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library will take place as Smith and previous editors-in-chief will discuss the history, culture and importance of The Hilltop, along with their memories of leading the newspaper.  

Pearl Stewart, Adrienne Manns Israel, Alonza Robertson and William “Bill” Johnson will serve as panelists. The chat will begin at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in downtown Washington D.C. at 6 p.m. 

After the gala, the centennial celebration weekend will conclude with a Call to Chapel service Sunday morning, following the Hilltop Centennial Sunday Brunch in the Blackburn Center’s Hilltop Lounge room at 1 p.m. 

All events will serve as a fundraising for the current and future Hilltop staff and the newspaper’s operational expenses. Those interested in ticket sales, and donating to The Hilltop, can do so by clicking here.