Historically black colleges are colleges that by statute (The Education Act of 1965) are defined as colleges established before 1964 with the principal mission of educating black Americans. Most of these colleges were established after the American Civil War in response to the exclusion of blacks from state colleges by several states. This was more prevalent in the south and the former slave states.
Colleges established after 1964 that serve mainly black students are called predominantly black colleges because segregation in public schools was officially outlawed by the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education ten years earlier.
There are 105 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States. Most of these are public schools and some are private
Top-Ranked Historically Black Colleges
U.S. News and World Report, as part of its ranking of best colleges in the United States, ranks historically black colleges and universities. Here are the top black U.S. colleges.
- Spelman College, Atlanta, GA
- Howard University, Washington, DC
- Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA
- Hampton University, Hampton, VA
- Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL
- Xavier University if Louisiana, New Orleans, LA
- Fisk University, Nashville, TN
- Claflin University, Orangeburg, SC
- Dillard University, New Orleans, LA
- Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, MS
All of these top 10 historically black colleges are private and therefore cost an appreciable amount of money. They are also competitive so all the rules for applying to competitive colleges, HBCU or not, also apply.
Applying and Going Beyond the Rankings
To be successful in your college application to any of the top black U.S. colleges, you need to start early. Identify the schools to which you plan on applying early on, if possible by the fall of your senior year. This allows you enough time to prepare the best application packet for the various schools. If at all possible, visit these colleges before you apply and be sure to make connections with individual students, admissions staff and professors. When they can put a face to a name, it is easier to get the help you need should something go wrong during the application process.
Finally, a few words about college rankings. While they may be a big deal and affect the popularity of some schools over others or how much endowment they command, it is important to remember that college rankings should not be the ultimate determinant of where you choose to get an education. Other important factors worthy of consideration include costs, ease and availability of funding, scholarships, fit with your choice of major, extra curricular activities available, support outside of the classroom and whatever else may be important to you. It is these other factors, some of them abstract, that end up determining what kind of college experience you have. So choose wisely.