The Meaning of HBCU: What It Is and How To Use It

What is the meaning of HBCU? Read this article to learn what a historically Black college or university is and why it’s important in American history.

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You may have heard the term HBCU used when researching colleges and wondered what it meant. This article will cover the meaning of the term HBCU and list tons of HBCUs in the United States.

Keep reading to learn all about HBCUs!

What Does HBCU Stand For?

According to Dictionary and The Free Dictionary, the term HBCU stands for historically Black college or university. An HBCU refers to colleges and universities that were founded before the 1964 Civil Rights Act with the express mission of educating Black Americans. 

Many famous Black Americans are HBCU graduates, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Toni Morrison, Oprah Winfrey, and Vice President Kamala Harris. HBCUs began in the 19th century as a way for Black Americans to receive a college degree.

 Some people prefer to go to an HBCU rather than a PWI — or predominantly white institution — to avoid discrimination. Others prefer their affordability, tuition rates, and sense of community.

What Are HBCUs in the United States?

Take a look at the HBCU institutions below whose principal mission is the education of Black Americans and African Americans. These institutions serve the Black community; some are private institutions, and others are public institutions. 

Many of these public and private schools are in Southern states, offering Bachelor’s degrees and Master’s programs. 


Alabama is a state that boasts many HBCUs!

  • Stillman College
  • Gadsden State Community College
  • Lawson State Community College
  • J. F. Drake State Community and Technical College
  • Oakwood University
  • Tuskegee University
  • Alabama A & M University
  • Shelton State Community College
  • Miles College
  • Bishop State Community College
  • Alabama State University
  • Talladega College
  • H Councill Trenholm State Community College


Arkansas also contains numerous historically Black colleges.

  • Arkansas Baptist College
  • Shorter College
  • Philander Smith College
  • The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff


Delaware is a small state with only one historically Black college:

  • Delaware State University

District of Columbia

While the District of Columbia is small, there are three options for HBCUs here!

  • University of the District of Columbia
  • Howard University
  • University of the District of Columbia-David A Clarke School of Law


If you’re looking for sun, sand, and HBCUs, Florida is the place to be.

  • Florida A&M University
  • Edward Waters College
  • Bethune-Cookman University
  • Florida Memorial University


The great state of Georgia has many historically Black colleges to choose from.

  • Morehouse College
  • Spelman College
  • Savannah State University
  • Interdenominational Theological Center
  • Clark Atlanta University
  • Paine College
  • Fort Valley State University
  • Morehouse School of Medicine
  • Albany State University


While Kentucky only has two HBCUs, both of these are fantastic colleges. 

  • Simmons College of Kentucky
  • Kentucky State University


The state of Louisiana has numerous universities that are historically Black.

  • Grambling State University
  • Dillard University
  • Southern University Law Center
  • Southern University at New Orleans
  • Xavier University of Louisiana
  • Southern University at Shreveport
  • Southern University and A & M College


Even the small state of Maryland has four HBCUs that someone could attend!

  • Bowie State University
  • Coppin State University
  • University of Maryland Eastern Shore
  • Morgan State University


Mississippi is a wonderful state with many different college and university options for someone who wants to go to an HBCU.

  • Alcorn State University
  • Tougaloo College
  • Rust College
  • Jackson State University
  • Mississippi Valley State University
  • Coahoma Community College


With only two HBCU options, Missouri has a small but mighty contingent of HBCUs.

  • Lincoln University
  • Harris-Stowe State University

North Carolina and South Carolina

Between North Carolina and South Carolina, there are a plethora of historically Black colleges and universities.

  • Fayetteville State University
  • North Carolina A&T State University
  • Benedict College
  • Bennett College
  • Elizabeth City State University
  • Livingstone College
  • South Carolina State University
  • Voorhees College
  • Allen University
  • Shaw University
  • North Carolina Central University
  • Denmark Technical College
  • Saint Augustine’s University
  • Clinton College
  • Morris College
  • Johnson C Smith University
  • Winston-Salem State University
  • Claflin University


If you’re looking for a more northern HBCU, you can check out one of the below in Ohio.

  • Wilberforce University
  • Central State University


If you live in Oklahoma and want to go to an in-state HBCU, you only have one option, but it’s a great one!

  • Langston University


There are a couple of different historically Black universities in Pennsylvania.

  • Lincoln University
  • Cheyney University of Pennsylvania


Tennessee has many HBCUs for potential students to choose from!

  • Fisk University
  • American Baptist College
  • Lane College
  • Tennessee State University
  • Meharry Medical College
  • Le Moyne-Owen College


In the heart of the American South, Texas boasts numerous HBCUs.

  • Prairie View A & M University
  • Jarvis Christian College
  • Wiley College
  • St Philip’s College
  • Southwestern Christian College
  • Texas Southern University
  • Texas College
  • Paul Quinn College
  • Huston-Tillotson University

Virginia and West Virginia

Finally, Virginia and West Virginia have many HBCUs to choose from between these two states.

  • Hampton University
  • Virginia University of Lynchburg
  • Bluefield State College
  • West Virginia State University
  • Virginia State University
  • Virginia Union University
  • Norfolk State University


The abbreviation HBCU stands for historically Black college or university. An HBCU is a college or a university that was founded before the 1964 Civil Rights act with the mission of educating Black Americans. 

Certain Black Americans may choose to go to an HBCU to find a sense of community. Others may go to avoid predominantly white institutions where they may feel othered or discriminated against. 


  1. What is an HBCU? | White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities | 
  2. HBCU – What does HBCU stand for? | The Free Dictionary 
  3. Hbcu Definition & Meaning |