History of HBCU Schools
HBCU stands for “Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” and the term dates back to 1837, 26 years before the end of slavery. Quaker philanthropist Richard Humpreys founded the Institute for Colored Youth to educate people of African descent. Today, this school is better known as Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, the oldest African American institution of higher learning.
However, with the end of slavery and the Civil War, other schools started to follow suit, especially when many states excluded black people from attending their land grant colleges. The second Morrill Act of 1890 was passed to require states to establish a separate land grant college for African Americans if they were being excluded from an existing land grant college. By 1902, 85 schools were set up with the goal to educate sons and daughters of former slaves.
Key HBCU Statistics
|Oldest HBCU School||Cheyney University of Pennsylvania||Founded in 1837|
|Largest HBCU School||North Carolina A&T State University||8,041 undergrads|
|Hardest HBCU School To Get Into||Fisk University||11 percent|
|Number of HBCU Schools||N/A||104|
For a long time, HBCUs were the only option for African Americans, but the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision ended “separate but equal” school systems. In the Higher Education Act of 1965, the Supreme Court more narrowly defined an HBCU as “any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principle mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary of Education to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation.”
While the culture surrounding these universities is tailored most to African American heritage, any student is eligible to apply and enroll, regardless of race or ethnic background. In fact, many publicly funded HBCUs are becoming more desegregated as the student body begins to reflect the racial demographics of the surrounding area, as is the case with West Virginia State University, a historically black college with a student population that is 64 percent white (as opposed to its 14 percent African American population), and Bluefield State College, an HBCU with a 90 percent white student body.
These are the Top 25 HBCU Schools by Niche Grade.
|A -||Fisk University||Nashville||TN||554||Private||Traditional|
|B +||Hinds Community College||Raymond||MS||8017||Public||Career|
|B +||J.F. Drake State Technical College||Huntsville||AL||558||Public||Career|
|B +||Shelton State Community College||Tuscaloosa||AL||2699||Public||Career|
|B +||Spelman College||Atlanta||GA||2074||Private||Traditional|
|B||Gadsden State Community College||Gadsden||AL||3158||Public||Career|
|B -||Fayetteville State University||Fayetteville||NC||3916||Public||Traditional|
|B -||Jackson State University||Jackson||MS||5506||Public||Traditional|
|B -||Lawson State Community College - Birmingham Campus||Birmingham||AL||1957||Public||Career|
|B -||Xavier University of Louisiana||New Orleans||LA||2399||Private||Traditional|
|C +||Lincoln University of Pennsylvania||Lincoln University||PA||1569||Public||Traditional|
|C +||North Carolina A&T State University||Greensboro||NC||8041||Public||Traditional|
|C +||North Carolina Central University||Durham||NC||5602||Public||Traditional|
|C +||Morehouse College||Atlanta||GA||2220||Private||Traditional|
|C +||Howard University||Washington||DC||6270||Private||Traditional|
|C +||Tuskegee University||Tuskegee||AL||2936||Private||Traditional|
|C +||University of the Virgin Islands||Charlotte Amalie||VI||1421||Public||Traditional|
|C +||Winston-Salem State University||Winston-Salem||NC||4483||Public||Traditional|
|C +||Huston-Tillotson University||Austin||TX||802||Private||Traditional|
|C +||Elizabeth City State University||Elizabeth City||NC||2509||Public||Traditional|
|C +||Bennett College for Women||Greensboro||NC||646||Private||Traditional|
|C +||Claflin University||Orangeburg||SC||1830||Private||Traditional|
|C +||St. Philip's College||San Antonio||TX||1876||Public||Traditional|
|C +||Hampton University||Hampton||VA||3764||Private||Traditional|
Click here for a full list of HBCU colleges.
Famous HBCU Alumni
|Common||Florida A&M University|
|Toni Morrison||Howard University|
|Rev. Jesse Jackson||North Carolina A&T University|
|Sean "Puffy/P.Diddy/Diddy" Combs||Howard University|
|Samuel L. Jackson||Morehouse College|
|Jerry Rice||Mississippi Valley State University|
|Herman Cain||Morehouse College|
|Spike Lee||Morehouse College|
|Alice Walker||Spelman College|
|Wanda Sykes||Hampton University|
|Oprah Winfrey||Tennessee State University|
The Bottom Line
Today, there are 104 HBCU institutions in America.
While HBCUs qualify as a small percentage of the nation’s institutions of higher learning, 20 percent of African Americans that earn undergraduate degrees do so from from these colleges and universities. These schools may have come from a troubled period in United States history, but today they hold a legacy that continues to support students from all walks of life, of any color and background.