Historically Black Colleges and Universities, also known as HBCUs, are institutes of higher education in the United States of America tailored specifically to the African-American experience (though non-African-Americans also attend).
Ranging from private to public, HBCUs are best known for providing educational opportunities to Black people when there were few to none. From graduating the highest amount of Black professionals and doctors to having some of the most notable alums such as Martin Luther King Jr., HBCUs have aided in shaping the “land of the free” into the diversity tolerant society that it is today. However, there is still so much about HBCUs that most people, including those who currently attend, have little to no knowledge of and would be shocked by some of the history.
The first HBCUs were created by Caucasian People
Despite the fact that HBCUs are said to have been built on Black pride, Black culture and Black history, the truth of the matter is the first few HBCUs were created by Caucasian People (Quakers to be exact).
The very first HBCU was established by a philanthropist on land donated by George Cheyney and the prominent Cheyney family in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The core curriculum of the then African Institute focused on teaching agriculture and trade. Two decades later, Lincoln University, known then as the Ashmun Institute became the first private HBCU created by Reverend John Miller Dickey and his wife Sarah Emlen Cresson.
Built mainly on donated and already owned land, the first HBCUs were supported by ministries and social sciences. Educating Black people had become an act of social reform and many Black people wanted to be a part of the revolution. The institutes attracted prospective students from numerous states who were interested in learning trades and philosophizing about the possibility of colonizing Liberia for African-Americans.1 Eventually the HBCUs were able to pioneer employment opportunities previously unheard of and not available to Black people, such as dentistry, teaching and engineering.
The oldest HBCU is over 180 years old
Cheyney University, originally known as the Institute for Colored Youths, is the oldest and first Historically Black University in the United States. Established in 1837, Cheyney University was founded by Richard Humphreys, three decades before the American Civil War.
Founded as the African Institute, the school was soon renamed the Institute for Colored Youth and designed to educate people of African descent and prepare them as teacher. The school also provided training in trades and agriculture, as those were the predominant skills needed in the general economy. In 1902 the Institute was relocated to George Cheyney's farm, a 275-acre property 25 miles (40 km) west of Philadelphia. The name "Cheyney" became associated with the school in 1913. The school's official name changed several times during the 20th century. In 1983, Cheyney was taken into the State System of Higher Education as Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. 2
Wilberforce University is the first black owned HBCU.
Wilberforce University is a private, coed, liberal arts historically black university (HBCU) located in Wilberforce, Ohio. Affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, it was the first college to be owned and operated by African Americans. It participates in the United Negro College Fund.
The founding of the college was unique as a collaboration in 1856 by the Cincinnati, Ohio Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). They planned a college to provide classical education and teacher training for black youth. 3
HBCUs are ONLY in the south and southeast
Despite the mention of HBCUs in California and other states along the nation, true Historically Black Colleges and Universities are only found in the south or southeast region of the United States.
There are over 100 HBCUs
The estimated number of HBCUs vary between 107 and 104 depending on which article you are looking at and the date of its creation. Over time, HBCUs have been closing due to lost accreditation and decline in enrollment, bringing the official number down to 104.
Alabama has the most HBCUs
With over 100 plus HBCUs in the nation, a whopping 12 of them reside in the state of Alabama! North Carolina sits closely behind at 11, followed by Georgia and Texas with 9 and South Carolina with 8. Giving the circumstances of the history of these states, it’s shocking to see so many HBCUs located in places where African Americans were once thought to not be “allowed” or tolerated. 5
Howard is the Mecca of Greek Life
The first African-American fraternity was established on the campus of Cornell University in 1906, however the majority of the fraternities and sororities that make up the Divine 9 were birthed on the very soil of Howard University.
Alpha Kappa Alpha Incorporated was founded on January 15, 1908, by a group of sixteen students led by Ethel Hedgeman Lyle. Forming a sorority broke barriers for African-American women in areas where they had little power or authority, due to a lack of opportunities for minorities and women in the early 20th century
Omega Psi Phi was founded on November 17, 1911 by three Howard University juniors, Edgar Amos Love, Oscar James Cooper and Frank Coleman, and their faculty adviser, Dr. Ernest Everett Just, making it the first fraternity to be found on the campus of a HBCU.
Delta Sigma Theta was founded on January 13, 1913, by 22 collegiate women
Phi Beta Sigma, founded on January 9, 1914, by three young African-American male students with nine other Howard students as charter members. The fraternity's founders, A. Langston Taylor, Leonard F. Morse, and Charles I. Brown, wanted to organize a Greek letter fraternity that would exemplify the ideals of Brotherhood, Scholarship and Service while taking an inclusive perspective to serving the community as opposed to having an exclusive purpose. The fraternity exceeded the prevailing models of Black Greek-Letter fraternal organizations by being the first to establish alumni chapters, to establish youth mentoring clubs, to establish a federal credit union, to establish chapters in Africa, and establish a collegiate chapter outside of the United States, and is the only fraternity to hold a constitutional bond with a predominantly African-American sorority, Zeta Phi Beta
Zeta Phi Beta, founded in 1920 by five women from Howard University who believed that sorority elitism and socializing overshadowed the real mission for progressive organizations. Since its founding Zeta Phi Beta has historically focused on addressing social causes. 6
Morgan State University is a National Treasure
Morgan State University, referred to as MSU, Morgan State or Morgan is currently the largest HBCU in the state of Maryland. Located in the heart of Baltimore, Morgan State University was not initially received with open arms.
In 1915 Andrew Carnegie gave the school a grant of $50,000 for a central academic building. The terms of the grant included the purchase of a new site for the College, payment of all outstanding obligations, and the construction of a building to be named after him. The College met the conditions and moved to its present site in northeast Baltimore in 1917. Then a controversy exploded: in 1918, the white community of Laurelville was incensed that the Ivy Mill property, where Morgan was to be built, had been sold to a "negro" college. It attempted to have the sale revoked by filing suit in the circuit court in Towson, which dismissed the suit. They then appealed the case to the state Court of Appeals. The appellate court upheld the lower court decision, finding no basis that siting the college at this location would constitute a public nuisance. Despite some ugly threats and several demonstrations against the project, Morgan College was allowed to be constructed at the new site and later expanded. Carnegie Hall, the oldest original building on the present MSU campus, was erected a year later. 7
The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Morgan State University a National Treasure on Tuesday, a designation given to only one other Historically Black College in the country. (Howard University)
Spelman College is considered the best HBCU
According to various surveys, studies and stats, Spelman College is distinguished as being the best HBCU in the nation (with Howard University coming in second place).
The U.S. News and World & World Report has released its annual Best Colleges Rankings for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The HBCUs on the list are matched against one another and no other universities. To be considered for the ranking, all schools must currently be a part of the 2017 Best Colleges rankings and be a designated as an HBCU on the U.S. Department of Education’s Registry.
There are over 100 HBCUs in total, and 80 of them were eligible for 2017 HBCU rankings. From this list of 80 schools, only 72 HBCUs made the cut.
The ranking criteria include statistical indicators including graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, and alumni giving rates to name a few. 8
There are predominantly white HBCUs.
Yes, you read that correctly. In fact the demographics for White students are shockingly high with West Virginia State University at a staggering 61% and Bluefield State College in the lead with over 85%
Both HBCU’s are located in West Virginia and have ironically held a high white-majority attendance since the mid-1960s! 9