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History of Black Colleges

Educational institutions considered Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCU, have a long and interesting history in the United States. Thesis Rush history experts studied more than a hundred colleges in the country are HBCU, with the history of black colleges in the U.S. beginning almost two centuries ago.

  • Definition of a Historically Black College

The Higher Education Act of 1965 led to the formation of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. According to the Act, an HBCU is any black university or college established before 1964, and whose main duty was, and still is, to provide education to black Americans. It should also have accreditation from a nationally acknowledged accrediting association or agency determined by the Education Secretary to be a trustworthy authority, or is making reasonable strides towards accreditation, according to such an association or agency.

  • The First Historically Black College

When he arrived in the U.S. in 1764 from the British Virgin Islands, Richard Humphreys was still in his teenage years. Even so, his observations of the conditions facing blacks in his new city disturbed him deeply. As a Quaker committed to his principles, he donated money to the abolition of slavery and was very vocal in his strong opposition to the cruelties faces by African Americans. According to his view, education was a powerful tool that could improve their lives.

Some HBCU colleges existed prior to the Civil War, but most in the South started after the war. Established in 1837 by Richard Humphreys, the Cheney University of Pennsylvania, originally called the African Institute and later named the Institute for Colored Youth, was the first HBCU. Having read of the race riots taking place in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1829, he changed the details of his will and bequeathed funds to establish a school that would offer opportunities for higher education to African Americans.

He died three years later, leaving a tenth of his estate to the establishment of the Institute for Colored Youth; however, he left a huge philanthropic legacy that people should always remember. In 1904, the school relocated about 40 miles outside the city at a farm owned by George Cheney, hence the change of name to Cheney University, and started granting degrees.

Still in operation today, it is the oldest black institute of higher education, and, more importantly, it stands as the first in a long line of colleges and universities recognizing the indisputable connection between racial equality and education. Based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics, there are 100 HBCUs today spread out across 19 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.

Of these institutions, 49 are private, while 51 are public. Richard Humphreys’ vision came true when he made the changes to his will. The history of black colleges and universities is a testament to his foresight and dedication. HBCUs helped and are still helping African Americans break down racial boundaries to achieve equality, collective advancement, social mobility, and freedom.

Although many institutions designated HBCU started operating prior to the Civil War, the years leading up to the civil war set the mold. Also located in Pennsylvania, Lincoln University< founded in 1854 as Ashmun Institute, was the first black university to issue degrees. Since it was the first school in the U.S. granting degrees to African Americans, it attracted the best and brightest from across the country.

  • Other Important Periods in the History of Black Colleges

Other periods in the history of HBCUs that one needs to learn about include:

  1. The Civil War period that led to financial difficulties
  2. Jim Crow laws – black colleges and universities provided a safe place for blacks to discuss their plight
  3. Civil rights advancement period when white colleges started opening their doors to black students
  4. The current struggle for black colleges and universities

Prior to the establishment of HBCUs, and for many years after their establishment, African Americans could not gain admission to regular white colleges and universities. Consequently, black colleges were their only option for gaining higher education. Today, however, historically black colleges and universities must meet additional educational objectives in addition to those originally set. Nevertheless, HBCUs still represent an important part of higher education in the United States, despite the fact that the law brought down most racial barriers in the educational sector.


Posts by SpeakBindas Editorial Team.

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