A Guide to Historically Black Colleges

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have been around for well over a century, providing an unprecedented level of educational opportunity and support for African American students. Offering more than just an educational experience, these institutions have played a pivotal role in shaping the black community’s history, culture, and progress. In this guide, we will explore the significance of HBCUs, the prominent HBCUs in the United States, and their unique characteristics that make them stand out in today’s diverse educational landscape.

The Significance of HBCUs

According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are currently 101 accredited HBCUs across the United States. These institutions were founded on the belief that every individual should have access to a quality education. Initially established during the post-Civil War era to provide education opportunities for formerly enslaved African Americans, HBCUs have evolved to offer a wide array of degree programs and produce many graduates who excel in various fields.

Prominent HBCUs

1. Howard University: Established in 1867, Howard University is located in Washington, D.C., and stands as one of the most prestigious HBCUs. The university offers comprehensive undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs attracting students from all over the world.

2. Spelman College: Founded in 1881 in Atlanta, Georgia, Spelman College is a private women’s liberal arts college that is consistently ranked as one of America’s top colleges.

3. Morehouse College: Located next door to Spelman College in Atlanta, Morehouse is an all-male institution founded in 1867. Known for its strong emphasis on leadership development, prominent alumni from Morehouse include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., film director Spike Lee, and actor Samuel L. Jackson.

4. Hampton University: Founded in 1868 as Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, Hampton University is located in Hampton, Virginia. The university offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs with a strong focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

5. Tuskegee University: Established in 1881 by Booker T. Washington in Alabama, Tuskegee University emphasizes the importance of practical education. It is also widely known for the Tuskegee Airmen program, which trained African American pilots during World War II.

Unique Characteristics of HBCUs

1. Supportive environment: One of the key factors that set HBCUs apart from other colleges and universities is their nurturing and supportive environment – providing students with a sense of community, identity, and confidence.

2. Cultural relevance: HBCUs have a rich history in educating students on African American history and culture. This cultural significance not only preserves heritage but also helps students gain a stronger sense of self-identity.

3. Networking opportunities: Alumni networks often play an essential role in helping graduates navigate their chosen career fields. HBCUs offer strong alumni networks to help support students even after graduation.

4. Focus on academic excellence: Many HBCUs have rigorous academic programs that aim to develop well-rounded graduates with the skills needed to excel beyond their educational experience.

5. Scholarships and financial aid: With many students facing significant financial challenges, HBCUs often provide scholarships and financial aid opportunities to assist with tuition costs.


Historically black colleges and universities hold a unique place in America’s diverse educational landscape. These institutions have made remarkable strides in promoting equity, diversity, and educational opportunities for all – graduating generations of leaders who continue to make a positive impact on society. Understanding the significance of HBCUs can help prospective students make informed decisions about pursuing their academic goals within these exceptional institutions.