Historically Black Colleges and Universities TimeLine


Why HBCUs?
Before 1850s
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Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln


The First Morrill Act, also known as the "Land Grant Act" becomes law. It donates public lands to states, the sale of which will be used for the "endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life" (Sass, 2005).  



End of the Civil War.

The 13th amendment abolishes slavery in the U.S.

By the end of the Civil War in the United States of America there were 4.4 million people of African descent breathing on the soils of the almost century old country. However, only twenty-eight of these millions had received baccalaureate degrees (Drewry 33).

The rationale for not educating blacks rested on two flawed logics. The first explanation was that blacks were intellectually inferior. Secondly, many oppositionists felt that educated blacks would compete with the whites economically, politically, and in sexual spheres (Roebuck 23). Nonetheless, many blacks did seek admission to northern white universities, they were assumingly denied. Often laws, usually in the South, prevented blacks not only from attending school, but from also learning to read and write. By 1835, most southern states passed laws making it illegal to teach an enslaved person the such fundamentals (Williams 20).

After the Civil War, blacks yearned to take full advantage of being free citizens of the United States. Therefore, they sought out education, religion, and property. Through these avenues, they felt that they would gain personal respect, economic security, and racial progress (Roebuck 25). (Bookrags.com, 2006)


Shaw University

An institution of higher learning for African Americans (Negroes), was founded December 1, 1865, when a theological class was formed in the old Guion Hotel where the State  Museum  now stands. This class was formed by Dr. Henry Martin Tupper (Founder and First President of Shaw University) who was honorably discharged from the Union Army after serving for three years as a private and as a chaplain.

Shortly after the formation of the theological class, Dr. Tupper saw the need for expansion of his activities. With $500, which he had saved while in the Army, he purchased a lot and there erected a two-storied wooden structure. The Raleigh Institute, as it was called, was one of the largest structures of its kind in the city.

In 1866 on March 1, the first class for colored women was formed and has served both sexes since that time. Meanwhile, another building had been erected for the purpose of housing the girls who were seeking educational advantages at Shaw Collegiate Institute. (Shaw University, 2008)



Edward Waters College

The oldest private institution of higher education in the state of Florida, was founded in 1866 specifically to educate newly freed slaves.

Edward Waters College was initially named “Brown Theological Institute” by Rev. William G. Steward, the first AME pastor in the state.  The school experienced some financial difficulties and was forced to close for nearly a decade. By 1893 the school’s name was changed to Edward Waters College in honor of the third bishop of the AME church.  Through the years, the College has withstood the test.  After being destroyed by fire in 1901, the College acquired the current site in 1904 and began to rebuild Edward Waters College.  The school was first accredited as a junior college in 1955 under President William B. Stewart and by 1960, the College had restored its four-year curriculum.  In 1979, the Commission on Colleges of the  Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accredited the College as a four-year institution and the College still remains accredited by SACS. (Edward Waters College, 2008)


Rust College

Was established in 1866 by the Freedman's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The school accepted adults of all ages, as well as children, for instruction in elementary subjects.

In 1882, the name was changed to Rust University. The name is a tribute to Richard S. Rust of Cincinnati, OH, Secretary of the Freedman's Aid Society. In 1915, the name was changed to Rust College. Rust College is the oldest HBCU in the state of Mississippi. (HBCUnetwork.com, 2008)



Talladega College

Was founded in 1867 by former slaves William Savery, Thomas Tarrant, and other freedmen from across the state who upheld the education of our children and youth as vital to the preservation of our liberties, and true religion as the foundation of all real virtue. It was the first college opened to blacks in the state of Alabama. (Petersons.com, 2008)


Howard University

In November 1866, shortly after the end of the Civil War, members of the First Congregational Society of Washington considered establishing a theological seminary for the education of African-American clergymen. Within a few weeks, the concept expanded to include a provision for establishing a University. Within two years, the University consisted of the colleges of Liberal Arts and Medicine. The new institution was named for General Oliver O. Howard, a Civil War hero who was both a founder of the University and, at the same time, commissioner of the Freedman’s Bureau.

The University charter as enacted by Congress and subsequently approved by President Andrew Johnson on March 2, 1867, designated Howard University as “a University for the education of youth in the liberal arts and sciences.” The Freedmen’s Bureau provided most of the early financial support of the University. In 1879, Congress approved a special appropriation for the University. The charter was amended in 1928 to authorize an annual federal appropriation for construction, development, improvement and maintenance of the University. (Howard University, 2008)


Morehouse College

Was founded in 1867 as "Augusta Institute" in the basement of Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta, GA. Augusta Institute was founded by the Rev. William Jefferson White, an Augusta Baptist minister and cabinetmaker, with the support of Richard C. Coulter, a former slave from Augusta, GA., and the Rev. Edmund Turney, organizer of the National Theological Institute for educating freedmen in Washington, D.C.

In 1855, the institution relocated to the West End of Atlanta, on a Civil War historic site at which confederate soldiers staged a determined resistance to Union forces during the famous siege of Atlanta.

During this era, Atlanta Baptist College was named Morehouse College in honor of Henry L. Morehouse, the corresponding secretary of the Atlanta Baptist Home Mission Society. (HBCUnetwork.com, 2008)


Fayetteville State University:

Seven visionary Black citizens of Fayetteville, North Carolina pay $140.00 for two lots on Gillespie Street and form among themselves a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees to maintain the property for the education of Black youth.

Fayetteville State University was founded as the Howard School by seven African-American men. It is one of the oldest teacher education institutions in the south. (HBCUnetwork.com, 2008)


Fisk University

Barely six months after the end of the Civil War, and just two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, three men — John Ogden, the Reverend Erastus Milo Cravath, and the Reverend Edward P. Smith — established the Fisk School in Nashville, named in honor of General Clinton B. Fisk of the Tennessee Freedmen's Bureau, who provided the new institution with facilities in former Union Army barracks near the present site of Nashville's Union Station. In these facilities Fisk convened its first classes on January 9, 1866. The first students ranged in age from seven to seventy, but shared common experiences of slavery and poverty — and an extraordinary thirst for learning.

The work of Fisk's founders was sponsored by the American Missionary Association — later part of the United Church of Christ, with which Fisk retains an affiliation today. Ogden, Cravath, and Smith, along with others in their movement, shared a dream of an educational institution that would be open to all, regardless of race, and that would measure itself by "the highest standards, not of Negro education, but of American education at its best." Their dream was incorporated as Fisk University on August 22, 1867. (Fisk University, 2008)



Hampton University

Founded on the Virginia Peninsula by Brigadier General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, the 29 year-old son of missionary parents. Hampton became an oasis of opportunity for the thousands of newly freed people gathered behind Union lines. With the aid of the American Missionary Association, the school was established to train selected young men and young women to "go out to teach and lead their people," and to build a viable industrial system on the strength of self-sufficiency, intelligent labor and solid moral character.

In 1878, Hampton established a formal education program for Native Americans, beginning the Institute's lasting commitment to serving a multicultural population. 

In the early days, support for the Institute came from the Freedman's Bureau, Northern philanthropists and religious groups with the first classroom building erected in 1870. The first baccalaureate degrees were awarded in 1922. Two years later, the school's name was changed to Hampton Institute, reflecting college-level accreditation. In 1984, Hampton's Board of Trustees formally adopted a university structure and changed the name to Hampton University, which today represents the unparalleled standard of excellence in American higher education.  (historichamptonroads.com, 2006) 


Howard Rabble at Hampton, ca. 1914