Last Updated on July 31, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina
For 155 years, our state’s historically Black colleges and universities have produced activists, scientists, educators, and artists. From the Greensboro Four at NC A&T State University, who advanced a civil rights movement, to NC Central University alumnus André Leon Talley, a former Vogue editor, some of the nation’s brightest leaders have been molded in North Carolina.
Winston-Salem State University
The first Black institution in the country to grant degrees in elementary education, Winston-Salem State University later, in 1967, became the first HBCU to win an NCAA basketball championship with the help of Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. The school’s Diggs Gallery is one of the most prominent galleries dedicated to African and African American art in the region.
Shaw University in Raleigh set the template for historically Black colleges and universities across the South — and helped establish the nation’s largest HBCU, North Carolina A&T State University.
Barber-Scotia College was established as a Presbyterian school to educate young Black women in teaching and social work. Alumna Mary McLeod Bethune served as an educator, civil rights advocate, and advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
North Carolina Central University
Chartered in 1909, North Carolina Central University became the first state-supported liberal arts college for Black students in the nation. Eagles learn to soar with programs in the sciences, arts, business, and law — just ask notable alumna Tressie McMillan Cottom, a writer, sociologist, professor, and 2020 MacArthur Fellow.
Bennett Belles took part in the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins of 1960, a movement that inspired social change here and beyond. Bennett is one of two women’s-only HBCUs in the United States, and in 1955, the school’s president, Dr. Willa B. Player, became the first Black woman in the nation to serve as a college president.
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
Now the nation’s largest HBCU, North Carolina A&T State was established to teach agriculture and mechanical arts. Today, the home of Aggie Pride and the Greatest Homecoming on Earth is nationally recognized for its STEM programs, which produced the late NASA astronaut Ronald McNair, a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Challenger.
Elizabeth City State University
From a modest 23 students when it began to graduating more than 20,000 students over the course of nearly 130 years, Elizabeth City State University has evolved from a school for teachers to one offering more than 30 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including aviation. Among ECSU’s notable alumni: ’60s- and ’70s-era Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jethro Pugh.
The home of the Blue Bears was established by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church as a school for newly freed enslaved people. The first president of the college, Dr. Joseph Charles Price, believed in the education of the hands, the head, and the heart — evidenced by Livingstone’s focus on liberal arts, education, and “STEAM” programs.