Best historically black colleges and universities in the United States

Explore the best historically black colleges and universities in the United States based on data collected by Times Higher Education and the Wall Street Journal

January 21 2019
Best historically black colleges and universities in the United States

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are a unique feature of the higher education landscape in the United States. They are found mostly in the Southern United States.

HBCUs are higher education institutions that were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and were created with the intention to provide education for the African American community. This was because, before the Civil Rights Act was established, African Americans were not permitted to study in the majority of schools. 

Today, while many of the students attending HCBUs are predominantly African American, diversity in student bodies has increased over time, with white, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander and Native American students making up a fifth of the population at HBCUs. 

Many HBCUs are private, liberal arts universities.

Here is a rundown of all the best HBCUs based on data collected for the THE/WSJ US College Rankings 2019:

1. Spelman College

Spelman College is a private, women’s liberal arts college located in Atlanta, Georgia.

Many prominent women have attended Spelman, including Pulitzer prizewinning author Alice Walker, the first African American COO of Starbucks and CEO of Sam’s Club Rosalind Brewer, former dean of Harvard College Evelynn M. Hammonds, and musician, activist and historian Bernice Johnson Reagon.

The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art is the only museum in the United States dedicated to art by women in the African diaspora.

Students at the institution come from 41 US states and 15 countries.

2. Howard University

Howard University is a private, co-educational college in Washington. It is categorised by the Carnegie Foundation as a research university with high research activity. It is a national leader in studying health disparities among ethnic minorities.

It is particularly well-known for the STEM subjects and is seen as a top producer of African-American graduates who go on to earn science and engineering doctorates.

Alumni include writer and MacArthur Fellow Ta-Nehisi Coates; first African American and first Indian American female Attorney General and US Senator from California, Kamala Harris; actress Taraji P Henson; and Nobel and Pulitzer prizewinning author Toni Morrison. 


Best public universities in the United States
Best liberal arts colleges in the United States
Best private universities in the United States


3. Hampton University

Hampton University was founded in 1868 and is located in Hampton, Virginia.

It is home to the Hampton University Museum, the oldest African American museum in the US, and the oldest museum in the state of Virginia.

A 15-acre section of the campus along the Hampton River is a US National Landmark District, which means that it is officially recognised by the US government for its historical significance. Buildings in this area include Mansion House, Marquand Memorial Chapel and Virginia Hall.

The student to faculty ratio is 10 to 1 which is a better than the national average of 18 to 1.

4. Xavier University of Louisiana

Xavier University of Louisiana is the only historically black, Roman Catholic institution of higher education in the US.

It was established in 1925 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The campus of the university is sometimes called the “Emerald City” because many of the buildings on campus have green roofs. These include the Library/Resource Centre, the Living Learning Centre and the Katharine Drexel Hall.

5. Tuskegee University

The campus of Tuskegee University was designed by architect Robert Robinson Taylor, the first African American to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The university offers 40 bachelor’s degree programmes, 17 master’s degree programmes, a five-year accredited professional degree programme in architecture, four doctoral degree programmes and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

Tuskegee University is the number one producer of African American aerospace science engineers in the US as well as being one of the top producers of African American engineering graduates. 


Best historically black colleges and universities in the United States 

HBCU rank US College Rank 2019 University City State
1 109 Spelman College Atlanta Georgia
2 118 Howard University Washington DC
3 =291 Hampton University Hampton Virginia
4 =320 Xavier University of Louisiana New Orleans Louisiana
5 453 Tuskegee University Tuskegee Alabama
=6 501-600 Delaware State University Dover Delware
=6 501-600 Morehouse College Atlanta Georgia
=8 601-800 Bowie State University Bowie Maryland
=8 601-800 Clark Atlanta University Atlanta Georgia
=8 601-800 Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Tallahassee Florida
=8 601-800 Jackson State University Jackson Mississippi
=8 601-800 Morgan State University Baltimore Maryland
=8 601-800 North Carolina Central University Durham North Carolina
=8 601-800 Tennessee State University Nashville Tennessee
=8 601-800 Texas Southern University Houston Texas
=8 601-800 Virginia State University Petersburg Virginia
=8 601-800 Winston-Salem State University Winston-Salem North Carolina
=18 > 800 Alabama A&M University Normal Alabama
=18 > 800 Alabama State University Montgomery Alabama
=18 > 800 Albany State University Albany Georgia
=18 > 800 Fayetteville State University Fayetteville North Carolina
=18 > 800 Norfolk State University Norfolk Virginia
=18 > 800 North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Greensboro North Carolina
=18 > 800 Prairie View A&M University Prairie View Texas
=18 > 800 Savannah State University Savannah Georgia
=18 > 800 Southern University and A&M College Baton Rouge Louisiana
=18 > 800 Wiley College Marshall Texas

Read more: Required Reading: what is a historically black college?

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