With the school year approaching, I wanted to highlight the history behind HBCUs!
These institutions are iconic for so many reasons, one of the main ones being that it provided opportunities for Black Americans to receive higher education!
As a child, I went to the Black College Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center for many years.
I was amazed at how many people that looked like me were in one room and were looking to go to college or were currently attending!
Although, the one thing I noticed was I didn’t pay enough attention to the history of these extraordinary schools during the expo.
If I am being honest, I was so mesmerized by the Black sororities and fraternities strolling that I didn’t pay attention to little details about how and why HBCU’s were built.
So, if you are looking to learn more about the history and importance of HBCUs then keep reading!
What is an HBCU?
HBCU stands for a Historically Black College or Univerity. The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an HBCU as “… any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of Black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency.”
HBCUs provide rigorous academic programs while also highlighting Black culture and history within the institution.
They also provide a safe space for Black people to express themselves and be surrounded by like-minded people!
Alongside that, historically black colleges don’t discriminate! Just because it is a Black Institution doesn’t mean that ONLY Black students can attend.
These institutions were built for ANYONE that were denied higher education or couldn’t afford to attend “traditional” schools.
Black colleges and universities admit students from different ethnicities, religions, gender, and race!
The mission was to simply help educate individuals who were not given a fair shot.
Although, since these institutions are historically Black, the main population at the schools are students of color.
Why Were HBCUs Created?
Before the Civil War, Black individuals weren’t welcomed to attend predominantly white institutions (PWI) which left the Black community with no educated teachers or doctors.
Therefore, to provide more educational opportunities and advanced professions in the Black community, HBCUs were built!
When slavery was abolished, former slaves needed to be taught to read and write, but it was legally forbidden for “traditional schools” to teach ex-slaves.
Therefore, the Black community gathered Black people who knew how to read and write to teach former slaves these skills.
Also, being that slavery was most prominent in the South, that is where the majority of the institutions were established.
Over the years, this formed into institutions to educate black children in elementary and secondary schools on basic principles during segregated times.
It wasn’t until the late 1800s a few of these institutions started offering college courses and degrees.
A few of the first institutions to offer college-level courses are :
- 1837 – Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (formerly known as The Institute for Colored Youth)
- 1851 – University of the District of Columbia (formerly known as Miner Normal School )
- 1854 – Lincoln University (formerly known as Ashmun Institute)
After The Morrill Act of 1890 was passed, it was required to give land-grants to Black colleges which granted these institutions land to build their own campus!
Sadly, they received low-quality facilities, equipment, and lower budgets in comparison to white institutions which resulted in some Black institutions closing.
Although, many HBCUs received enough students to maintain the institution which in turn resulted in more Black colleges being built!
What Was the First/Oldest HBCU?
The oldest HBCU is Cheyney University of Pennsylvania that was created in 1837 by Richard Humphreys. The school was first known as The Institue for Colored Youth which offered higher education classes like advanced mathematics, sciences, philosophy, languages, and social sciences!
Although, it is often debated that it should not be known as the first official HBCU because it did not grant degrees to students in its early years.
The first HBCU to provide degrees to students is Lincoln University, formerly known as Ashmnu Institute, which was founded in 1854. This institution was founded by a minister named John Miller Dickey.
How Many HBCUs Are There?
Per The U.S. Department of Education, there are currently 101 HBCUs. 50 of them are private institutions and 51 are public universities. Out of all the colleges, 90 are four-year universities and the rest are two-year colleges.
You can access the entire list of historically black colleges here.
Importance of HBCUs
HBCUs only make up 3% of colleges in the United States, yet has made an extraordinary impact on the nation’s educational system. Here are a few statistics from UNCF to show the positive effect of Black colleges & universities:
- Accounted for 24% of total degrees in STEM earned by Black-Americans making HBCUs some of the top colleges to award Black students degrees in sciences, mathematics, and engineering.
- Accounted for 17% of total bachelor degrees earned by Black-Americans
- Account for 20% of all Black-American graduates
- The cost of attendance at an HBCU is 28% less than attending a non-HBCU, therefore, decreasing debt that students accrue
- HBCUs generate $14.8 billion in economic impact annually
- Being that these institutions are located in low-economic regions in the nation, their economic contribution positively impacts those communities.
- Provides 134,090 jobs in total through their institutions (UNCF)
All in all, HBCUs have done exactly what they were created to do: provide more opportunities to Black people. All of these historic institutions have given millions of people of color from low-income families an opportunity to obtain higher education and feel financially secure during their college experience!
These institutions have also given people of color an establishment that is made for THEM! It was built to of course educate you, but also allows you to be who you are unapologetically.
Often times, at a PWI, you don’t have that same privilege because they don’t completely understand you or the issues that you endure because of the color of your skin.
Knowing that you will be attending a school that accepts you for who you are and the people attending can relate to you is a dream come true! On top of that, these institutions have so much history embedded into them that it should be an honor to be able to attend a Historically Black College or University!
I hope you found this article helpful and learned something new about historically black colleges and universities! If you like learning about Black history you can read more here: Black History
Share this with your loved ones to help teach them about the history of HBCUs!
Comment down below what HBCU you attended or your dream school you wish you attended!
(For me, I wish I went to Spelman or Howard!)