Best Historically African American Colleges in the US

Before the Civil War, there were only a handful of schools that accepted African American students. Proposals to set up additional educational institutions that accept black students were usually faced with violent reactions hence, immediately abandoned. Schools with mixed children (blacks and whites) faced violence and destruction.

This black school phenomenon began in the late 1860s when Southern states created public schools for ex-slaves and suffer from chronic underfunding compared with white schools. Classes were mostly taught by one teacher who taught all subjects and grades. This discrimination continued until the 1900s that resulted in over-populated schools, unequal expenditures, and lower salaries for teachers. 

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are higher education institutions in the U.S. created for the purpose of educating Black citizens. Many of these institutions were established after the Civil War until 1964 when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was established. Until the mid-1960s, most HBCUs, were the only higher education option for most African Americans since most universities and colleges were completely disqualifying non-white students.

Historically, in the 1950s, blacks made up nearly 100% of HBCU enrollment. However, with the push for the integration of the Civil Rights Movement, enrollment dropped at HBCU institutions. In 1980, blacks represented 80% of total enrollment. There is also increased diversity in race and ethnicity. In 2018, non-Black students made up 24 percent of HBCU enrollments.

To maintain its enrolment level and due to their lower tuition fee, the percentage of non-African American enrollments in many HBCU schools have risen. In West Virginia State University in West Virginia, non-African American students are 92.42 % of the entire school population.

The issues being faced by most HBCU institutions are their retention and graduation rate. Often considered as a sign of efficiency at colleges and universities, HBCU’s graduate rate is often criticized. Based on a 2011 study, there were only 30% of students who graduated in HBCU schools. Moreover, the majority of HBCUs also enroll students with lower SAT scores. 

Although damning, it is said that the majority of HBCU students come from low-income families, and students with these characteristics are less likely to graduate no matter where they attend college.

In spite of the criticisms, HBCU stands in its role to provide African Americans – and students of all races – to quality and affordable education. They are ready to take students from any economic and social circumstances and prepare them to be industry-ready professionals.

HBCUs have a long list of notable alumni. Many African-American leaders in the fields of education, business, law, science, entertainment, sports, and arts graduated from HBCU institutions. One of the most prominent is Martin Luther King Jr., who began his studies at Morehouse College. Oprah Winfrey graduated at Tennessee State University on a full scholarship. Althea Gibson, the first African American tennis player to win a Grand Slam entered Florida A&M University, Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall attended Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore and he was the Court’s first African American justice. Anika Noni Rose, known for her Tony award-winning performance of musical Caroline, or Change attended Florida A&M University and earned a bachelor’s degree in theater.

Here is list of best historically black colleges and universities ranked by Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education.

Howard University

Howard University is a private, co-ed college sitting in a 256-acre campus in northwest Washington. It is the only HBCU ranked in the top 40 on the Bloomberg Businessweek rankings. Its law school has been ranked among the top 25 in the country for placing the graduates at the most successful law firms by The National Law Journal.

Most notable alumni include Nobel Prize for Literature winner Toni Morrison, 11 members of United States Congress, the first African-American U.S. Army General Benjamin O. Davis Sr., and the first African-American elected to the US Senate, Edward W. Brooke III.

Spelman College

Spelman College is a private, women’s liberal arts college located in Atlanta, Georgia founded in 1881. It is considered as America’s oldest private historically black liberal arts college for women. The university offers nearly 30 majors and some of the most popular are English, psychology and social sciences. National Science Foundation recognized Spelman College as a leading producer of black women who go on to earn science doctorates.

Many prominent women have attended Spelman, including first African-American COO of Starbucks, Rosalind Brewer; Pulitzer prize winner Alice Walker; former dean of Harvard College, Evelynn M. Hammonds; and activists Marian Wright Edelman and Stacey Abrams.

Xavier University of Louisiana

Xavier University of Louisiana is a co-ed, private, liberal arts college located in the Gert Town section of New Orleans, Louisiana. It has a distinction of being the only historically black Roman Catholic higher education institution in the nation. The university was established in 1925. Its campus is often referred to as “Emerald City” due to its buildings having green roofs.

Although historically black, Xavier accepts students of every race and religion. Today 25.1% of its students are not African-American and 74.3% are not Catholic.

Most notable alumni include LaToya Cantrell, the first female mayor of New Orleans; Candice Stewart, the first African American Miss Louisiana USA; Nathaniel Clifton, the first African American to sign a contract with an NBA team, and Mary Munson Runge, the first woman to be elected president of the American Pharmacists Association.

Hampton University

Founded in 1868, Hampton University is a private historically black university in Hampton, Virginia. It is home to the Hampton University Museum, which has the oldest worldwide collection of native sub-Saharan African communities in the United States, and the oldest museum in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Notable alumni include the founder of The Chicago Defender, Robert Abbott; former President of Oracle Corporation, Charles Phillips, and Alberta Williams King, mother of Martin Luther King Jr.

Morehouse College

Morehouse College is a private college in Atlanta, Georgia. The college is considered as one of the only few remaining traditional men’s liberal arts colleges in the U.S. Morehouse College is one of two historically black colleges in the United States to produce Rhodes Scholars. Morehouse has been the recipient of Oprah Winfrey’s pledge and donations.

Most notable alumni include Martin Luther King, civil rights leader Howard Thurman, filmmakers Spike Lee and Bobby Garcia, and actor Samuel L. Jackson.