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Education in the ante bellum 19th century United States had two faces for Black folk.  In the south, academic education for slaves was absolutely forbidden. In the north, there were scattered schools that educated Blacks in the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic, and the larger cities such as Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore had academies and schools of higher learning.  Generally, higher education was permitted for very few, and even then there were often protests and threats from alumni and other financial supporters to withdraw funds.

An exception to the exclusionary policy toward Blacks was Oberlin University, which made it official policy in 1834-35 to have "free admission of all colored students on equal terms with whites." In 1853 the first school specifically for the education of Black males was founded by Presbyterians in Pennsylvania. Named Ashum Institute at that time, today Ashum Institute exists as Lincoln University.

Only after the south had been defeated in the Civil War was it possible for Blacks to legally attend school in that region. The Freedmen's Bureau, established by the federal government, provided the initial funds for the establishment of schools. Also, many churches from the north established Freedmen's Aid societies which provided funds for elementary education and other needs of the newly freed slaves. After the Freedmen's Bureau ended, higher education became a reality due to the efforts of churches, missionary societies, and other groups. Black ministers were involved in the founding of many of the schools.

The most honest way to describe what led to the development of so many Black colleges is that Blacks were simply not wanted in most White institutions, and if so, there were unofficial quotas limiting the number of Blacks to be admitted. Hence, the number of Black students in predominantly White colleges was always very small, usually single digit or low double digit small. Hence, the all-Black college became a necessity because of discrimination, racism, and the exclusion those activities cause.

Today, there are a few narrow-minded, misguided people, most of them White and some who are Black, who say that Black colleges are an anachronism or an aberration, and that they now represent discrimination and segregation. These people also say that until Black colleges are open to Whites as well as Blacks, they should not receive any more federal funding until there is better racial balance. Meanwhile, the reality is that Black Colleges never have excluded White students and most White folk did not and do not wish to attend an all Black or predominantly Black institution. Also, the forces of discrimination and racism that made Black colleges necessary are alive and well today.

Over the years some schools have closed and today there are 118 Black colleges. Many Black people who have made, and are making a  tremendous, constructive impact on the entire society were educated in Black colleges. Thus, since the first Black colleges opened, their existence has been justified a million-fold.

The Black colleges established in the 19th century are listed in the chart below.

Year Institution Founded by:
1864 Lincoln University Presbyterians
1866 Wilberforce University African Methodists
1867 Augusta Institute Baptists
1868 Hampton University General Samuel Chapman Armstrong
1868 Howard University Freedman's Bureau
1869 Berea College American Missionary Association
1870 Leland University Mr. H. Chamberlain
1870 Benedict College Baptists
1871 Fisk University American Missionary Association
1872 Atlanta University American Missionary Association
1872 Biddle University Presbyterians
1872 Southland College Friends
1873 Roger Williams University Baptists
1874 Central Tennessee College Methodists
1874 New Orleans University Methodists
1874 Shaw University Baptists
1874 Rust University Methodists
1874 Straight University American Missionary Association
1876 Stillman College Presbyterians
1878 Branch College State of Arkansas
1878 Claflin University Methodists
1879 Knoxville College Presbyterians
1879 Clark University Methodists
1880 Alcorn University State of Mississippi
1880 Wiley University Methodists
1882 Paine University Southern Methodists
1883 Allen University African Methodists
1883 Livingston College Zion Methodists
1885 Talladega College American Missionary Association
1885 Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute State of Virginia
1885 Paul Quinn College African Methodists
1890 Lincoln Institute Black Soldiers and State of Missouri
1890 Morris Brown College African Methodists
1893 Atlanta Baptist College Baptists
1894 Georgia State Industrial College State of Georgia
1894 Delaware State College State of Delaware
1894 Philander Smith College Methodists

Source: The Education of the Negro, Education Report 1900 -1901