There are 105 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the nation. In 1965, in Title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965, Congress officially defined an HBCU as an institution whose principal mission was and is the education of black Americans was accredited and was established before 1964. The first HBCU, Cheney University in Pennsylvania, was founded in 1837.
While the 105 HBCUs represent just three percent of the nation’s institutions of higher learning, they graduate nearly 20 percent of African Americans who earn undergraduate degrees.
HBCU's are experts at educating African Americans:
HBCUs graduate over 50 percent African American professionals.
HBCUs graduate over 50 percent of African American public school teachers and 70 percent of African American dentists.
50 percent of African Americans who graduate from HBCUs go on to graduate or professional schools.
HBCUs award more than one in three of the degrees held by African Americans in natural sciences.
HBCUs award one-third of the degrees held by African Americans in mathematics.
HBCUs have historically played a key role in the development of black leadership in the country and the world. Many of them were formed in the 19th century either right before or after the abolition of slavery. There were two main sources that influenced their formation and development. First, there was the religious aspect as churches, missionaries, and philanthropists felt that there was a great need to educate blacks just out of slavery. It was due to a real thirst for education among blacks and there were people both black and white who were willing to give of themselves and their resources to make that possible. Out of those institutions developed many black leaders, both men, and women, who have had a profound impact on the black community and the country. One cannot study black history without being amazed at the incredible work and success that these institutions had with relatively little resources. There would not be any civil rights movement without the existence, presence, and work of the black colleges in the prior 100 years.
Second, there were the land-grant institutions especially in the South where agriculture was still king, that were set up to give the kind of educational skills to help blacks function in a largely agricultural community. This was part of a larger trend in the educational needs of the country as a whole. So, we witnessed a growth in the “Agricultural and Mechanical” Universities, especially in the South. The two streams formed the basis for a significant controversy concerning black education as one stream emphasized the liberal arts and the other the practical skills. Both were important aspects of the tradition of HBCUs in this country.
It is at these schools where many students with a desire to overcome obstacles develop as leaders, with great encouragement from the faculty who are committed to their success.
In short, HBCUs play an important role in the development of black Christian leadership for this country. Even though there are questions concerning their viability and significance in a “desegregated society”, there is no question that they do a much better job in developing many blacks in terms of academic excellence. While there are black students who would be fine and do well at predominantly white institutions, there will still be blacks who need to be at an HBCU in order to be successful in the larger society. Many black students need the care and orientation that only HBCUs can provide.
Unfortunately, HBCU work is relegated to a 'niche' ministry in large parachurch organizations, but it is imperative that they are appreciated and approached as an institution in and of themselves. While Sub:Culture Incorporated is committed to African American students no matter where they are enrolled, we are unapologetic about a deep commitment to HBCU campuses and students.
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UNITED NEGRO COLLEGE FUND"