SpelHouse: How Morehouse and Spelman teamed up to overshadow Howard’s Homecoming

Brothers and sisters, there’s a new champion, and it’s right here in ATL

SpelHouse: How Morehouse and Spelman teamed up to overshadow Howard’s Homecoming
Zahara and Angelina Jolie, 21 Savage, Drake, and Stacey Abrams

Photographs by Getty Images

When it comes to HBCU homecomings, we all think our school does it best. In fairness, the title, according to pretty much everybody, has long been held by Howard University. That is, until now. Brothers and sisters, there’s a new champion, it’s right here in ATL, and it’s called “SpelHouse.”

Listen, dear members of the HU family (I can feel the saltiness coming though the screen): You should feel good about Howard Homecoming’s former dominance. Just like true bison, y’all had a run! Every year provided proof of your justified pride. I’m seasoned enough to remember my fellow AUC students actually leaving Atlanta and making the 10-hour drive to D.C. and back, just to be there. And who could blame them? D.C.’s nickname is “Chocolate City,” and Howard’s alumni network stretches from legends like Donny Hathaway and Toni Morrison to contemporary stars like Taraji P. Henson and the late Chadwick Boseman, not to mention Atlanta mayors Andrew Young, Shirley Franklin, and Kasim Reed.

Beginning in the ’90s, former student Sean “Diddy” Combs gave HU major hip-hop and R&B credibility. Puff Daddy brought the Notorious B.I.G. to campus in 1995, a game-changer followed in later years by Jay-Z, Ludacris, Foxy Brown, DMX, Kanye West, Nelly, and more. Sure, Spelman and Morehouse students were a little jealous.

My, how things have changed. Since Spelman and Morehouse officially combined their celebrations more than a decade ago (after all, football is not a thing at a women’s college), their Homecoming went from an easily navigable tailgate experience that happened to have a football game to one of Atlanta’s most lit annual events. That’s without even mentioning Clark Atlanta’s epic weeklong festivities, which add to the AUC hype.

Last year, after a two-year hiatus due to Covid, SpelHouse came back big. Jermaine Dupri worked as a DJ in the tailgate. Senator Raphael Warnock, a Morehouse alum, and Spelman grad Stacey Abrams both walked through the tents, shaking hands and dancing when the spirit hit. Angelina Jolie pulled up with daughter Zahara, who became a Spelman freshman in fall 2022. And then there was the Homecoming concert, where Atlanta’s own 21 Savage surprised the crowd by bringing out Drake. Yes, he’d performed at Howard’s Yardfest a few years before, but yesterday’s Drake is not today’s Drake, and national news media ran wild with the revelation that everybody’s favorite Southern-Canadian rap crooner had shown up and showed out for the AUC.

We’ve come a long way since my fellow AUC students and I booed neo-soul legend Maxwell off the stage at King Chapel because we couldn’t wait to see the Fugees, who’d just dropped their classic album The Score and come to perform for us. You know what you call that? #Growth

Look, we still love you Howard people like family. And it sure seems like more of you are moving to ATL these days after graduation, because of course. And we’re sure you’ll continue to have one of the best homecoming experiences of any HBCU in America. It just won’t be SpelHouse. The people, including Drake, have spoken.

This article appears in our October 2023 issue.