Black History Month: A quick look at our nation’s HBCUs

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Year Founded: 1873

Previous Names: Branch Normal College, Arkansas Agricultural Mechanical and Normal School, and Arkansas Agricultural Mechanical and Normal College

First President: Dr. John Brown Watson

Current President: Dr. Laurence B. Alexander

Five Major Milestones: 

  • In 1892 Branch Normal College was designated as a Land Grant Institution under the Morrill Act of 1890
  • In 1928 the school’s first intercollegiate sports team was organized, and the lion became the school’s mascot
  • In 1972 AM&N merged with the University of Arkansas system, which became University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
  • The football program is restored in 1991
  • The STEM Academy and Conference Center is completed in 2014

Outstanding Students: Courtney Van Buren and Smokie Norful


Meharry Medical College

Year Founded: 1876

Previous Names: Medical Department of Central Tennessee College

First President: George W. Hubbard

Current President: Dr. James Hildreth

Five Major Milestones: 

  • First graduate in 1877 
  • Dental Department founded in 1886 
  • Pharmacy Department by 1889
  • In 1915 the Medical Department received a state charger and became an independent institution
  • Dr. Harold D. West became the school’s first African American president in 1952

Outstanding Students: Louis Pendleton and Dorothy Lavinia Brown


Spelman College

Year Founded: 1881

Previous Name: Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary

First President: Sophia B. Packard

Current President: Mary Schmidt Campbell

Five Major Milestones: 

  • Two women received the school’s first baccalaureate degree in 1901
  • Nursing program initiated in 1886
  • Bill and Camille Cosby donated 20 million dollars to build the Camille O. Hanks Cosby Academic Center in 1996
  • In 1999 Spelman was ranked number one by Black Enterprise as the best environment for black collegians
  • Spelman receives a grant from NASA of 4.5 million dollars to enhance its Women in Science and Engineering Scholars Program

Outstanding Students: Alice Walker and Keisha Knight Pulliam


Morris Brown College

Year Founded: 1881

Previous Names: Morris Brown Colored College

First President: Annie B. Thompson

Current President: Kevin E. James

Five Major Milestones: 

  • Department of Theology opened in 1894
  • George Alexander Sewel co-founded and became the first editor of the official school newspaper, The Wolverine Observer
  • The school is crowned Black College Football’s National Champion in 1940
  • In 1941 Morris Brown joins the Atlanta University Center
  • The movie “Drumline” is partially filmed at Morris Brown in 2002

Outstanding Students: Hosea Williams and James Alan McPherson


Savannah State University

Year Founded: 1890

Previous Names: Georgia State Industrial College for Colored Youth, Georgia State College, Savannah State College

First President: Richard R. Wright Sr.

Current President: Kimberly Ballard-Washington

Five Major Milestones: 

  • The son of the founding president, Richard R. Wright Jr., was awarded the first degree in 1898
  • The first female students were admitted as residents on the campus in 1921
  • The college became a four-year, degree- granting institution in 1928
  • In 1968 Savannah State University established the city’s first master’s degree program in elementary education
  • In 1979 undergraduate and graduate studies programs were launched

Outstanding Students: Shannon Sharpe and Tahj Mowry



Compiled by JALON GRANT


Name: Dillard University 

Location: New Orleans, La. 

Year founded: 1869 

Previous names: New Orleans University, Straight College

First president: Will W. Alexander

Current president: Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough

Enrollment: 1,301

Two outstanding alumni: Garrett Morris (Actor/Comedian), P.B.S. Pinchback (First black governor of Louisiana) 

Five major accomplishments: *The best small Business Management Degree Program in Louisiana. 

* Hold the number three Producer of Physics Bachelor's Degrees Awarded to African Americans. 

*First college or university in Louisiana to offer an accredited baccalaureate degree in nursing. 

*First HBCU to offer a bachelor's degree in theater. 

*Only HBCU and Louisiana university with a full-time pre-law center. 

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Name: Jackson State University 

Location: Jackson, Ms.

Year founded: 1877 

Previous names: Natchez Seminary, Mississippi Negro Training School, Jackson College, Jackson State College

First president: Dr. Charles Ayer

Current president: Thomas K. Hudson 

Enrollment: 7,020

Two outstanding alumni: Walter Payton (Former NFL player), Cassandra Wilson (Jazz vocalist) 

Five major accomplishments: *In 2015, JSU became the first university in Mississippi approved by the legislature to establish a School of Public Health, which is housed under the College of Health Sciences. 

* Only university in Mississippi to earn two consecutive "Apple Distinguished School" accolades. 

* Only HBCU in Mississippi to have a bachelor and master's level engineering program. 

* Is one of only two universities in Mississippi with meteorology undergraduate level degree program. 

* The first and only HBCU in Mississippi to have a bachelor and master's level engineering program. 

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Name: Norfolk State University 

Location: Norfolk, Va. 

Year founded: 1935

Previous names: Norfolk Unit of Virginia Union University, Norfolk Polytechnic College, Virginia State College, Norfolk State College

Fist president: Mr. Samuel Fischer Scott

Current president: Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston

Enrollment: 5,616

Two outstanding alumni: J.B Smoove (Comedian), Algie Howell (American politician) 

Five major accomplishments: *Offers three doctorate and 15 master's degrees, including master's degree programs in Electronic Engineering, Computer Science, and Criminal Justice. 

* Offers the only undergraduate degree in Optical Engineering in Virginia. 

*In Fall 2017 the new G.W.C. Brown Memorial Hall library was built which is,a three-story, 154,000 square foot building, which has the School of Business, College of Liberal Arts, and Mass Communication and Math Department. 

* Spartan Legion Marching Band ranked number one in the HBCU Band rankings for 2021. 

*On January 2, 2023, the marching band will march in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. 

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Name: South Carolina State 

Location: Orangeburg, SC 

Year founded: 1896

Previous names: South Carolina Agricultural and Mechanical Institute, Colored Normal Industrial Agricultural and Mechanical College of South Carolina, South Carolina State College, 

First president: Dr. Benjamin E. Mays 

Current president: Alexander Conyers 

Enrollment: 2,900

Two outstanding alumni: Doris Funnye Innis (Journalist), Deacon Jones (Former NFL player) 

Five major accomplishments: *Offers the only Bachelor of Science program in nuclear engineering in the state and nationwide at an HBCU.

*The only Master of Science degree in transportation and the only Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in agribusiness in South Carolina. 

*A Bachelor of Science degree in physics with an option or concentration in Medical Physics.  Graduates of this program are prepared to enter the work field or attend graduate school.

*The only HBCU ranked as an over performing College in the U.S. and fifth nationally among HBCU’s by U.S. News and World Report.

* Known as the HBCU for research in the state of South Carolina by Forbes Magazine. 

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Name: Southern University and A&M College 

Location: Baton Rouge, La.

Year founded: 1880 

Previous names: Southern University for Colored Students 

First president: Dr. Joseph Samuel Clark

Current president: Dr. Ray L. Belton 

Enrollment: 7,091 /12 students when opened

Two outstanding alumni: Randy Jackson (Former American Idol Judge), David Banner (Music recording artist) 

Five major accomplishments: *First HBCU to house a live mascot on campus. 

* Southern University Law Center is one of only two public law schools in Louisiana. 

* The first Louisiana institution to offer degrees in philanthropic studies. 

* Only HBCU and one of six public universities in Louisiana with an engineering program. 

*Has nationally honored Army and Navy ROTC programs. 

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