Historically Black Colleges and Universities TimeLine


Why HBCUs?
Before 1850s
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History class at Tuskegee, 1902


Lincoln University admits 10 students from Liberia, making it the first U.S. institution of higher learning to accept African students. (HBCUnetwork.com, 2008)


Bennett College

In 1873, Bennett College had its beginning in the unplastered basement of the Warnersville Methodist Episcopal Church (now known as St. Matthew’s Methodist Church). Seventy young men and women started elementary and secondary level studies. In 1874 the Freedmen’s Aid Society took over the school which remained under its auspices for 50 years.

Within five years of 1873, a group of emancipated slaves purchased the present site for the school. College level courses and permanent facilities were added. In 1926, The Women’s Home Missionary Society joined with the Board of Education of the church to make Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C., formerly co-educational, a college for women. The challenges that were overcome to establish Bennett demand that today’s challenges be met and overcome to ensure her survival. (Bennett College, 2008)



The Civil Rights Act is passed which bans segregation in all public places. It states: "Whereas it is essential to just government we recognize the equality of all men before the law, and hold that it is the duty of government in its dealings with the people to mete out equal and exact justice to all, of whatever nativity, race, color, or persuasion, religious or political; and it being the appropriate object of legislation to enact great fundamental principles into law" ("The Civil Rights Act of March 1, 1875," 2004). 


The year was 1876. Reconstruction was in full swing and the health of America's poor was receiving little attention. In Nashville, post-Civil War conditions contributed significantly to the city's unenviable distinction of having the worst mortality rate in the country. Conditions among freed slaves were particularly dismal, accounting for disproportionate rates of death and disease in the black population. (HBCUnetwork.com, 2008)


Meharry Medical College

In October of that year, Meharry Medical College was founded. Established as the Meharry Medical Department of Central Tennessee College by the Freedmen's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Meharry's inception was part of the Society's continuing effort to educate freed slaves and to provide health care services for the poor and under-served. The first individual contributors to the school were the five Meharry brothers, led by Samuel Meharry. Their initial gift was matched by the Methodist Church and the department was formally opened on October 13, 1876. (HBCUnetwork.com, 2008) 

Prairie View A&M University

On March 11, 1878, eight young Negro men became the first of their race to enroll in a state-supported college in Texas. Among the instructors were two brothers, E.H. and L.C. Anderson, who became the second and third principals of the young and struggling college. (HBCUnetwork.com, 2008) 


Virginia State University

Founded in a suburb of Petersburg, VA. and becomes America's first fully state-supported, four-year institution of higher learning for Blacks.

Virginia State University has a long history of outstanding faculty and administration. The first person to bear the title of President, John Mercer Langston, was one of the best-known blacks of his day. Until 1992, he was the only black ever elected to the United States Congress from Virginia (elected in 1888), and he was the great-uncle of the famed writer Langston Hughes.  (HBCUnetwork.com, 2008) 


Southern University

Southern University and A&M College began in 1880 as the result of a movement in Louisiana for an equal opportunity institution of higher learning sponsored in the 1879 Louisiana State Constitutional Convention by four African American delegates. Originally located in New Orleans, it was later reorganized to receive national land-grant funds and moved north of Baton Rouge in what was then Scotlandville, Louisiana, in 1914. Today, Southern University is part of the nation's only historically Black Land Grant university system in the U.S. (HBCUnetwork.com, 2008)



Spelman College


Spelman College was founded as Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary by Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles in the basement of Friendship Baptist Church on April 11, 1881.  It moved to its present day site in 1883, were it occupied nine acres and five frame buildings.   In 1884 the school’s name changed to Spelman Seminary in honor of Mrs. Laura Spelman Rockefeller and her parents Harvey Buel and Lucy Henry Spelman.  Spelman College was incorporated and granted their charter by the state of Georgia in 1888.  The first college degrees were granted in 1901 to Jane Anna Granderson and Claudia T. White.  The schools name was officially changed to Spelman College in 1924 and was accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in 1958 (Spelman College, 2004).



Tuskegee University


Tuskegee University was founded in a one-room shanty, near Butler Chapel AME Zion Church.  Credit for the founding of the university goes to George Campbell and Lewis Adams.  W.F. Foster was a candidate for re-election to the Alabama Senate and approached Lewis Adams about the support of African-Americans in Macon County.  In exchange for Adams securing the black vote for Foster, he told Foster he wanted an educational institution for his people.  Foster carried out his end of the bargain and legislation was passed for the establishment of a “Negro Normal School in Tuskegee”.  During Booker T. Washington’s tenure, the institution gained independence in 1881 and was granted authority to act independent of the state of Alabama.  Tuskegee University is well known for the Tuskegee Airman flight-training program.  Tuskegee attained University status in 1985 (Tuskegee University, 2008).




  State Normal College for Colored Students became Florida A&M University



Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, founded on October 3, 1887, as the State Normal College for Colored Students.  In 1891, the college received $7,500 under the Second Morrill Act for agricultural and mechanical arts education.  It became Florida’s land grand institution for African-Americans (Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, 2008).