Preview | This inaugural event is BFSA’s way of celebrating Black achievement

The new competition will bring together area schools for a battle of wits.


Hannah Saad | @hannah_saad21

UA professor Trudier Harris will be the namesake of BFSA’s scholars bowl competition.

UPDATE, Feb. 17

On Feb. 9, UA’s Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA) held a press conference regarding the Trudier Harris Intercollegiate Black History Scholar Bowl.

Each school introduced their team’s name and briefly discussed why they are choosing to participate in the event.

Alabama State University’s team will be named The Chancellors after Chancellor Williams, an African-American historian, sociologist and writer. Alabama A&M University’s team is named for William Hooper Councill, founder of Alabama A&M University. Shelton State Community College’s team is named the Bronze Bucs after Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder, a heavyweight champion and Tuscaloosan.

Currently, The University of Alabama has two teams, The UA NAACP and The Trailblazers.

“Our team is the UA NAACP. We are building on that legacy, and we are so excited to engage other African-American students in a like manner across the state of Alabama,” said Lisa Young, the parliamentarian for BFSA, the newly elected president of the Tuscaloosa branch of the NAACP and the president of the UA chapter of the NAACP.

While UA currently plans to have two teams competing in the bowl, there have been internal discussions about merging the teams, but a decision has yet to be made.

“Our team is going to be called the trailblazers in honor of all the African-American faculty and staff and students that have done amazing things… the names can go on and on,” said Stacy Jones, UA interim dean of students. “We didn’t want to single out just one person.”

Due to COVID-19 concerns, some teams, including Alabama State University and Alabama A&M, will be joining the event virtually. In order for the competition to be successful, The Bryant Conference Center had new technology installed, according to Chad Jackson, BFSA’s president.

Despite logistical concerns, all universities engaged in light-hearted competitive banter back and forth. Myron Pope, UA vice president of student life will have to wear a Stillman College bow tie if Stillman can pull a win out, and Derrick Gilmore, executive vice president of Stillman College, will wear an Alabama bow tie if The University of Alabama wins.

Students joined in the fun, as well.

“Given the virtual format, I believe this will be challenging. We are adamant, though, that we will take home the trophy,” said Dax Craig, a senior majoring in chemistry at Alabama State University.

Study packets were sent out last week, and students are gearing up for what looks to be a zealous competition.

While each team believes they will take home the trophy, this event is more than just an opportunity for bragging rights.

“I see this as a great opportunity for our students to engage with their peers and develop a stronger identity,” Pope said.

He said this information was important because in his own journey in college he wouldn’t have been who he was today without having instructors who exposed him to African American history and culture.

“Prior to that time, I [didn’t have] a lot of knowledge about my history and who I was. That information was very instrumental to me,” Pope said.

The scholar bowl will be held at The Bryant Conference Center, as well as virtually, on Feb. 27 at 11 a.m.

In an effort to showcase students’ scholarly knowledge of Black history, UA’s Black Faculty and Staff Association will partner with UA’s Division of Student Life to host the first-ever Black History Scholar Bowl Competition between area universities on Feb. 27 at 11 a.m.

Organizers hope the competition will also build community and strengthen connections between universities and colleges across Alabama.

We want to strengthen the relationship between the schools and brush up on our Black history,” said Chad Jackson, BFSA’s president, CEO of the BFSA executive board and the diversity, equity and inclusion council chair for the College of Continuing Studies.

The hybrid event is a part of the University’s annual Black History Month celebration and will have both virtual and in-person components. The competition will include not only students from The University of Alabama, but Alabama State University, Alabama A&M and Stillman College. The students will compete for a grand cash prize and a traveling trophy. 

“We decided to name the bowl after Trudier Harris who is a distinguished research professor in the English department and literary scholar at UA,” Jackson said. “She has written many books on African diaspora and is an HBCU graduate. One of the mandates that I wanted to make sure we emphasize is that we need to celebrate people in the Black community before they die.”

Students will be tested on their knowledge of a variety of Black History topics including current events and African American history, authors, political figures and activists, African kingdoms, the pre-transatlantic slave trade, reparations and school integration. 

The bowl will be divided into four rounds, with the first three rounds being “face-off” rounds between the schools. 

“When we were looking at our annual programs, we realized we didn’t have anything that was a scholastic competition. Another one of the reasons why it is important that this becomes an annual event is that African Americans are always contributing to American culture,” Jackson said. “We still have the line of ‘the first Black this’ or ‘the first Black that.’ As long as that is a surviving prefix, there will always be a need to make sure we keep those successes ever before us.”

In order to compete, a school must have a team consisting of five members: one captain, three teammates and one alternate. 

At this point, there are already 14 teams currently registered under The University of Alabama. These teams will go through mini pre-competition rounds to determine which one will represent the University in the bowl.

The questions in each of the categories will be vetted by multiple faculty members, including Utz McKnight, chair of the UA Department of Gender and Race Studies. 

Each school will also be given the opportunity to submit questions for the different categories. 

“This competition is not exclusive,” Jackson said. “We want anyone who is interested to apply.”

Currently, the event location is not determined and will be reevaluated based on COVID-19 guidelines. To learn more about The Inaugural Black History Scholar Bowl Competition and BFSA, check out their website: