What are HBCUs? Historically Black Colleges and Universities established prior to 1964 to educate people of African descent.
The first series of HBCUs were created — Cheyney University, Lincoln University, and Wilberforce University.
The Emancipation Proclamation declared that all persons held as slaves in the United States shall be free.
Following the Emancipation Proclamation, a majority of HBCUs were founded with many opening in 1867.
It was not until the passing of the Second Morrill Land Grant Act that states with segregated public higher education systems were required to provide a land-grant institution for African American students whenever a land-grant institution was established and restricted for white students. Public support for higher education for Black students was reflected in this act.
The U.S. Supreme Court's Plessy vs. Ferguson decision officially established the "separate but equal" doctrine validating racially dual educational institutions for African American students, including all HBCUs.
By 1953, more than 32,000 students enrolled in private HBCUs such as Howard University, Fisk University, Spelman College, Tuskegee Institute, & more. The same year, over 43,000 students enrolled in public HBCUs. These private & public institutions served the mission of providing education for teachers, ministers, lawyers, and doctors for the Black population within a racially segregated society.
"Separate but equal" doctrine was overturned as racially segregated public schools deprived African American students of equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Following this decision, HBCU facilities still remained segregated with inadequate facilities and lack of funding.
After segregation, some HBCUs were forced to close or merge with traditionally white institutions. However, African American students continued to attend active HBCUs because of their relevance both culturally and academically. Today, HBCUs remain a coveted option of higher education for many individuals in the Black community. Currently, there are 101 HBCUs in the United States.