Considering an academic career at any HBCU is taking step into the future and into history. Some HBCUs, however, have more history than others. While new schools are routinely being incorporated into the HBCU family, there are many which have stood for well over one-hundred years. Here, we’ll take a quick look at the five oldest HBCUs in the United States.
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania
Proudly standing as the oldest HBCU in the United States, Cheyney was founded in 1837. In the beginning, the school was known as the Institute for Colored Youth. Funding for Cheyney was provided by Richard Humphreys. Humphreys, a Quaker philanthropist, was born in the West Indies. After his arrival in Philadelphia in 1764, he was dismayed to see the struggles of African Americans as they lost out on jobs due to a lack of education. Humphreys dedicated one-tenth of his estate to the establishment of a school which would address this urgent need.
Lincoln University of Pennsylvania
Founded in 1854, LUP is located in southern Chester County. Although the school was founded as a private institution, it has been a public college since 1974. Lincoln has the distinction of being the very first degree-granting HBCU in the United States, a groundbreaking difference at the time and a huge leap forward for African American education.
Located in Wilberforce, Ohio, WU was founded in 1856. Among its many distinctions, Wilberforce was the first HBCU to be owned and run by African Americans. The college was founded by members of the local Methodist Episcopal Church.
Harris-Stowe State University
Founded in 1857, Harris-Stowe is located in St. Louis, Missouri. The college has the distinction of being the first public institute of teacher education west of the Mississippi River. The original school went through several phases and eventually took the name of the Harris Teachers’ College. This name honored William Torrey Harris, a United States Education Commissioner and Superintendent of the St. Louis Public School District. In 1920 the school became a four-year institution accredited to grand Baccalaureate degrees.
Harris-Stowe continued to evolve. A second college, the Stowe Teachers’ College, began granting four-year Bachelor’s degrees in 1924 after having itself undergone several phases and name changes. In 1954, these two colleges were merged in the area’s first step toward integration. In 1979, the school took on its current name.
Located in Memphis, Tennessee, LeMoyne-Owen College traces its proud heritage back to 1862. In that year, a missionary named Lucinda Humphrey was sent to the area with the sole purpose of opening a quality school for freedmen and runaway slaves. After being moved and burned to the ground by race-riot fires, the small school struggled under epidemics and poor finances for years. It was then known as the Lincoln Chapel. A large 1870 donation by Pennsylvania doctor and abolitionist Francis J. LeMoyne offered the institution new hope
Owen College was founded in 1947 by the Tennessee Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention as a teachers’ college. In 1968, the two schools were merged. Their shared dedication and focuses on liberal arts in a Christian setting transformed into the institution as we know it today.