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

Harris Stowe State University

School/locations: St. Louis, Missouri

Year found: 1857

Names before: This school was later named Harris Teachers College in honor of William Torrey Harris. In 1929, its name was changed to Stowe Teachers College, in honor of the abolitionist and novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe. 

First president:  Dr. Henry Givens, Jr. 

Current president: Dr. LaTonia Collins Smith

Enrollment: 1,700 students

2 Outstanding grads: Kimberly Gardner/ Cori Bush

5 major milestones :

  • It was also the first public teacher education institution west of the Mississippi River.
  • Harris Teachers College and Stowe Teachers College were merged together in 1954 to form Harris Teachers College.
  • Later in 1979, the Missouri General Assembly enacted Senate Bill 703 that officially made the college a part of the State system of higher education and changed the name to Harris-Stowe State College.
  • In 1981, Harris-Stowe became the first university to offer a Bachelor of Science in Urban Education. 
  •  In 2005, the College officially gained university status and became Harris-Stowe State University.


Texas Southern University

School/locations: Houston, Texas

Year found: 1947 

Names before: On June 1, 1951, the name of this new university for Negroes was changed from Texas State University for Negroes to Texas Southern University after students petitioned the state legislature to remove the phrase "for Negroes."

First president: O’Hara Lanier

Current president: Austine A. Lane

Enrollment: 10,514

2 Outstanding grads:  Mehgan Thee Stallion, Markus Howell

5 major milestones: 

  • The University was established out of necessity on September 14, 1927 to offset the restrictions of segregation.
  • On September 14, 1927, the Houston Public School Board agreed to fund the development of two junior colleges: one for whites and one for African-Americans.
  • The Junior College progressed so fast that by 1931, it became a member of the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and was approved by the Southern Association of Colleges.
  • In the summer of 1934, the Houston School Board changed the junior college to a four-year college and the name to Houston College for Negroes. 
  • In 1936, sixty-three individuals became members of the first graduating class.

Fisk University 

School/locations: Nashville, TN

Year found: 1866

Names before: The Fisk Freed Colored School

First president: Vann Newkirk/Cravath

Current president: Kevin D. Rome

Enrollment: 853

2 Outstanding grads: Kym Whitley/Nikki Giovanni

5 major milestones:

  • By the late 1800s, Fisk University became widely known for its Jubilee singers, which consisted of a group of students who traveled abroad with the school treasury in pocket, raising money to help fund their school. 
  • Fisk Free Colored School opened on January 9, 1866, shortly after the end of the Civil War.
  • Although at first it functioned mainly as an elementary and normal school, Fisk was incorporated as Fisk University on August 22, 1867, following the founders' desires for a "first-class college" to educate black teachers.
  • Fisk co-founder Cravath returned in 1875 and became the university's first president.
  • By 1954. Fisk University became the first black college in the private sector to become accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music


Virginia State University 

School/locations: Petersburg,VA

Year found: 1882

Names before: Virginia State College for Negroes

First president: John Mercer Langston

Current president: Makola Abdullah

Enrollment: 5,414

2 Outstanding grads: Wale/Roger Gregory

5 major milestones:

  • In 1920, the land- grant program for Blacks was moved from a private school
  • In 1923 the college program was restored, and the name was changed to Virginia State College for Negroes in 1930. 
  • In the first academic year, 1883-84, the University had 126 students and seven faculty (all of them Black).
  • In August 2010, the College began an integrated core curriculum which has gone "green" through digital delivery.
  • In August 2011, the Reginald F. Lewis College of Business unveiled its online learning community, in which students can view videos, blog posts, and comments from classmates and professors that are related to their course work.


North Carolina A&T University

School/locations: Greensboro, NC

Year found: 1891

Names before: Negro Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina

First president: John Crosby

Current president: Allison Gillmore

Enrollment: 11,600

2 Outstanding grads: Taraji P/ JR smith 

5 major milestones:

  • Enrollment was restricted to males only. Women could only attend the summer school sessions for teachers. (1902)
  • On December 16, female students are allowed for the first time to participate in the student government as members of the Student Council. (1931)
  • A&T became a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina, which is comprised of 16 senior public institutions. (1972)
  • A&T graduate Dr. Ronald E. McNair orbited the Earth in the Space Shuttle Challenger.(1984)
  • A&T achieved a record enrollment of 6,200 students.(1988)


Compiled by GABRIEL MOORE 


Bethune-Cookman University 

Location: Daytona Beach, Florida

Date Founded: October 3, 1904

Previous Names: Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls (1904);

Daytona-Cookman Collegiate Institute (1925)

First President: Dr. Mary Mcleod Bethune (1904)

Last President: E. LaBrent Chrite Ph.D (2019)

Enrollment: 3773 Undergraduate Students

Outstanding Alumni: Allen & Allen (Gospel Singers) and Rodney Chester (Actor)

• In 1923, the school merged with Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida.

• First Institution of higher education of Blacks in the state of Florida.

• In 1931, college became accredited by the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools of the Southern States, as a junior college.

• April 27, 1931, school name was changed to Bethune-Cookman.

• In 2007 Bethune-Cookman reached University Status.


Bennett College

Location: Greensboro, North Carolina

Date Founded: August 1, 1873

Previous Names: Bennett School; Bennett Seminary

First President: W.J. Walker (principal) (1874-1881)

Last President: Suzanne Elise Walsh (2019-Present)

Enrollment: 780 Undergraduate Students

Outstanding Alumni: Laura Mitchell (superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools); Joyce Martin Dixon (Businesswoman and Philanthropist) 

• Opened with seventy young African-American men and women starting elementary and secondary school studies. (free or former slaves).

• In 1874 the Freedmen’s Aid Society took over the school which remained under its auspices for 50 years.

• 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.

• Since 1930, more than 5,000 women have graduated from from Bennett College.

• Known as the Bennett Belles.

Coppin State University

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Founded: 1900

Previous Names: Colored Training School; Fanny Jackson Coppin Normal School; Coppin Teachers College

First President: Dr. Miles Connor

Last President: Dr. Anthony L. Jenkins

Enrollment: 2344 Undergraduate Students

Outstanding Alumni: Stephanie Ready (Sport Analysts); Mary Carter Smith (Founding member of  Big Brothers & Big Sisters club)

• Fanny Jackson Coppin was born a slave in Washington, D.C. She gained her freedom, graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio, and founded the Philadelphia Institute that was the forerunner of Cheyney State University.

• In 1926, This facility for teacher training was named Fanny Jackson Coppin Normal School in honor of the outstanding African American woman pioneer in teacher education.

• In 1938, the curriculum of the normal school was lengthened to four years, authority was given for the granting of the Bachelor of Science Degree.

• In 1950, Coppin became part of the higher education system of Maryland under the State Department of Education and named Coppin State Teachers College.

• Coppin was officially renamed Coppin State University in 2004, accredited but the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.


Paul Quinn College

Dallas, Texas

Founded: April 4, 1872 (Waco, Texas)

Previous Names: Connectional High School and Institute; Waco College

First President: Bishop John M. Brown (1872-1876)

Last President: Michael J. Sorrell (2007-present)

Enrollment: 552 Undergraduate Students

Outstanding Alumni: Toni Rose (Member of the House of Representatives); Korey Williams (Canadian Football Player)

• The college proudly educates students of all races and socio-economic classes under the banner of its institutional ethos, We over Me.

• The College’s president. Michael Sorrell, was recently named one of Fortune Magazine’s World’s Greatest Leaders in 2018 and the Male President of the Year by HBCU Digest for the third time.

• In the fall of 2015, PQC adopted a new student financial aid structure called the “New Urban College Model” which among other characteristics, reduced student tuition and fees and provides students with the ability to graduate with less than $10,000 of student loan debt.

• Founded by a group of African Episcopal Church preachers in Austin, Tx.

• Relocated to Dallas, Texas in 1990.


Virginia Union University

Location: Richmond, Virginia

Date Founded: 1865

Previous Names: Richmond Theological Institute (1865)

First President: Malcom MacVicar

Last President: Dr. Hakim Lucas (2017-present)

Outstanding Alumni: Ben Wallace (Basketball Player); James Atkins (Former Football Player)

Enrollment: 1070 Undergraduate Students

• The college became the first academic library at an HBCU, the same year the college was established.

• The American Baptist Home Mission Society founded the school as Richmond Theological Institute.

• In 1899, the Richmond Theological Institute joined Wayland Seminary of Washington to formVirginia Union University at Richmond.

• In 1932, the women’s college Hartshorn Memorial College, established in Richmond in 1883, became part of Virginia Union University.

• Storer College, a historically black Baptist college in West Virginia, merged its endowment with Virginia Union in 1964.