Five interesting facts about historically black colleges and universities


Historically, black colleges and universities (HBCUs) provided higher learning opportunities for African Americans following post-Civil War segregation and during Jim Crow. And although de facto segregation has ended, the role of these legendary institutions endures as pillars in their own right of black culture, education and history.

The churches established many colleges which opened the door to post-secondary education for black scholars. To this day, these spiritual roots influence many traditions. Along with their origin story, here are five other facts about HBCUs:

You don’t have to be black to attend

Students of all races attend these schools. The Department of Education reports that 76% of HBCU students are black while 13% are white, 3% are Hispanic, and 1% are Asian.

A historic photo depicts Shaw University for Color, Raleigh, North Carolina in the first decade of the 20th century.

A specific year is a determining factor if a school is an HBCU

The government defines an HBCU as an accredited university that was “established before 1964, whose primary mission was, and is, the education of black Americans.” This definition speaks to their history of many founded by churches and filling the void created by segregation. Many blacks with doctorates and medical degrees are graduates of HBCUs, more than half of African American professionals are graduates of HBCUs.

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HBCUs are concentrated in two regions

The majority of HBCUs are on the east coast and in the south. There are more than 100 in 20 states and Washington DC

Two schools claim to be the first HBCU

Lincoln University and Cheyney University, both in Pennsylvania, boast of being the nation’s first HBCU. Cheyney University was founded in 1837 as a trade school and did not offer degrees until 1914. The first HBCU because it was founded as a college.

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Some well-known black celebrities graduated from HBCU

Oprah is an alumnus of Tennessee State University. Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson are both men from Morehouse College. Lee studied communications while Jackson studied marine biology before switching to performing arts at the Atlanta-based school. Sisters Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen, along with Sean “Diddy” Combs attended Howard University.

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