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 20 2020
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 were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide higher education for the African American community. This was because, before 1964, African Americans were not permitted to study in the majority of schools. 

Today, while many of the students attending HBCUs 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 2020

1. 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; US Senator from California, Kamala Harris, also the first African American and first Indian American female Attorney General; actress and author Taraji P Henson; and Nobel and Pulitzer-winning author Toni Morrison. 

2. Spelman College

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

Many prominent women have attended Spelman, including Pulitzer prizewinner 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 of the African diaspora.

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


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


3. 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 is sometimes called the “Emerald City” because many of the buildings have green roofs. These include the Library/Resource Centre, the Living Learning Centre and Katharine Drexel Hall, which is named after an American heiress, philanthropist, religious sister and educator who was canonised in 2000.


Best historically black colleges and universities in the United States 

HBCU Rank 2020 US College Rank 2020 University City State
1 =117 Howard University Washington DC
2 =150 Spelman College Atlanta Georgia
3 =394 Xavier University of Louisiana New Orleans Louisiana
=4 401-500 Hampton University Hampton Virginia
=4 401-500 Morehouse College Atlanta Georgia
=4 401-500 Tuskegee University Tuskegee Alabama
=7  > 600 Clark Atlanta University Atlanta Georgia
=7  > 600 Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Tallahassee Florida
=7  > 600 North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Greensboro North Carolina
=7  > 600 North Carolina Central University Durham North Carolina
=7  > 600 Southern University and A&M College Baton Rouge Louisiana

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

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