Historical Black Colleges and Universities: Civilian and Military Leadership

By Oliver, Thornal G.; Oliver, Pauline R. et al. | Education, Winter 1996 | Go to article overview

Historical Black Colleges and Universities: Civilian and Military Leadership


Oliver, Thornal G., Oliver, Pauline R., Kolheim, Constance M., Glenn, Loraine, Education


Historical Black Colleges and Universities consist of 88 colleges and Universities established primarily to educate blacks in the segregated society prior to the days of institutional desegregation.

Most of the historical black colleges and universities were founded in the 19th Century to educate newly freed slaves and their children after the Civil War. However, other HBCU's were founded in the early to mid 20th century.

Stated by the Quakers

The oldest of the black colleges and universities is Cheyney State College located in Cheyney, Pennsylvania. Cheyney was established, in 1837, by the Quakers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as an educational entity for the higher educational needs of the black population. The school was moved in 1903 to its present location, 24 miles from Philadelphia. In 1921, the University was purchased by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and is a part of the State System of higher education today.

Lincoln University of Pennsylvania is the 2nd oldest Historical Black Colleges and Universities. Founded in 1854, it is a nonsectarian, coeducational, privately controlled and state-aided college of liberal arts.

The third (3rd) oldest member of the HBCU Group is Wilberforce University located in Wilberforce, Ohio. The university was established in 1856 by the African Methodist Church, 25 miles east of Dayton, Ohio. This institution was named after the British-born abolitionist, Sir William Wilberforce. Wilberforce who fought to end slavery and pushed anti-slavery in the British Empire.[1] From this parent institution, a state funded department in 1887, subsequently gave rise to a second four year institution in 1951, Central State University.[2] Today both institutions operate in Wilberforce, Ohio.

62nd U.S. Colored Infantry

After the civil war the establishment of HBCus was begun to meet the growing desire for higher education on the part of the newly freed slaves. An example to meet this charge was Lincoln Institute, now Lincoln University of Jefferson City, Missouri. In 1866, this institution of higher learning was created by black soldiers from the 62nd U.S. Colored Infantry for the special benefit of freed blacks.[3] Thereafter institutes of higher learning were established in state after state to accommodate the increasing desire for knowledge among the black segment of American society.

The HBCUs were initially established primarily to meet the needs of blacks who were not welcome at white campuses. The historical significance of these distinguished colleges with predominantly black enrollment, were their ability to educate blacks in a segregated society.

Continuing in the 1st and 2nd quarters of the 20th Century, most HBCUs were founded under the "Jim Crow" laws of the various states. These laws provided a dual system of higher education based on the separate but equal format. Not only were the colleges racially separate, they were hardly equal in the funding mechanism utilized by the state's political sources.

The 60's and 70's

With the integration of white mainstream institutions of the 50's and 60's and more blacks having accessibility to these institutions, enrollment in the HBCUs was affected but not it's mission. As recent as 1960, 96% of black college students could be found on the historically black campuses. In the 70's the proportions had shifted significantly to other colleges and universities. In deference to desegregation and other difficulties found in American, 88 black colleges and universities still play a major role in education and in the preservation of black culture and values.

The 80's and 90's

However, in recent years (late 80's, early 90's), many mainstream institutions are now seeing a sharp drop in freshman enrollment. Some of these colleges are seeing a decrease up to a 35% a year.[4] During this same time frame, many HBCUs experienced an increase in enrollment, as much as 10% to 15%. …

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