"Prior to the Civil War, the combination of slavery and segregation restricted educational access and opportunity for Black Americans. Although there were a few exceptions, such as Oberlin College (Ohio) and Bowdoin College (Maine), Black students were summarily denied entry to institutions of higher learning. Many HBCUs (particularly private HBCUs) emerged from schools and training institutions founded by missionaries, abolitionists, and progressive citizens and funded by liberal philanthropic entities.
Three institutions claim the title of the nation's first HBCU: Cheyney State University (Pennsylvania), Lincoln University (Missouri), and Wilberforce University (Ohio). Cheyney State University uses 1832 as its date of inception. However, in 1832, Cheyney was primarily a preparatory school rather than a college, and it did not begin offering college-level instruction until the early 1900s. Unlike Cheyney State, both Lincoln and Wilberforce were founded with the goal of providing college-level instruction. Lincoln was chartered in 1854, but it did not open its doors until 1856. Wilberforce, on the other hand, was incorporated in 1856 and opened its doors in the same year. In addition, Wilberforce is certainly the oldest Black-controlled HBCU in the nation, because many Black institutions (including Lincoln and Cheyney State) had white presidents, administrators, faculty, and boards of trustees for many years.
The aftermath of the Civil War led to a proliferation of HBCUs; more than 200 were founded prior to 1890. The end of the Civil War brought a new founder and funder of HBCUs in addition to the philanthropic associations, churches, local communities, missionaries, and private donors: state governments. Southern states were required by law to respond to the Thirteenth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and Fifteenth Amendment by providing public education for former slaves and other Black Americans.
Supplementary public support came with the passage of the Second Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1890. Although the first Morrill Act Land-Grant of 1862 had provided federal support for state education, particularly in agriculture, education, and military sciences, the 1890 act mandated that those funds be extended to institutions that enrolled Black Americans. Because of the strong hold that segregation had in the South, many states established separate public colleges, parallel to existing white institutions, for the sole purpose of having legal beneficiaries for the federal moneys. These public HBCUs are often referred to as the 1890 schools. The Second Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1890 unintentionally cemented the prevailing doctrine of segregation.
Separate and unequal patterns of funding persist even today. Faculty salaries at HBCUs remain lower than faculty salaries at their counterpart colleges. Expenditures at public HBCUs are lower than those at other public institutions. And despite increases in enrollments at both public and private HBCUs, they continue to be disproportionately worse off fiscally when compared to institutions that are predominately white. Efforts for greater equity in higher education were advanced with the inclusion of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law has become the linchpin in HBCUs' ongoing efforts to resolve funding and resource disparities."
Gasman, Marybeth. "Historically Black Colleges and Universities." The American Mosaic: The African American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2021, africanamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1477370. Accessed 4 Feb. 2021.
Attending homecoming while attending an HBCU is almost considered a right of passage as it is deeply rooted in school, Black Greek, and cultural traditions.