Historically Black Colleges and Universities have played a pivotal role in history. Established in a period when racism and segregation prevented Black people from getting an education, HBCUs became a haven and source of opportunity for Black Americans to develop their skills and improve the quality of their lives. Most of them started out as religious institutions and date back to as early as the 1800s.

There are over 100 HBCUs across the country today, including well-known ones such as Howard University, Spelman, Morehouse and more, and they continue to be a place for Black students to access higher education and thrive in a community of like-minded individuals. For many proud students and alumni, attending an HBCU is the only time they’ve felt like the majority in an institution. The culture, rich history and homecoming events offer even more of a reason to attend one of these illustrious universities.

In no particular order, here are 23 HBCUs that don’t get as much attention as their more talked-about counterparts, but you should still know. Have you heard of them?

1. Morris Brown College

Morris Brown College was founded in 1881 by an African Methodist Episcopal Church and prides itself on being the first and only “for us, by us” HBCU in the state of Georgia. Despite facing several blows — such as losing its accreditation and membership of the Atlanta University Center Consortium — MBC professors remained steadfast. The college has had plenty of redeeming moments, but recent years have proven to be a true testimony of its fortitude and commitment to fostering community.

Notable MBC alumni include civil rights activist Hosea Williams, former NFL player Donté Curry and comedian Sommore.

2. Bethune-Cookman University

In 1904, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune opened a training school in Daytona Beach, Florida with her son, “$1.50, faith in God, and five little girls.” Almost 20 years later, the growing university began to merge with the Cookman Institute — the first higher education institution for Black people in Florida. The merger was completed in 1925, and by April 1931, Bethune-Cookman University was officially established.

According to the university, the HBCU has seen over 19,000 graduates and counting since 1943, including notable alumni such as former NFL players Terry C. Anderson and Stevie Baggs.

3. Bennett College

Out of the 107 HBCUs that exist today, only two — Spelman College and Bennett College — are solely dedicated to empowering the next generations of women. Bennett continues to provide higher education to young ladies, sticking true to their motto: “Education for your future, sisterhood for life.” The Greensboro, North Carolina college was founded in 1873 in the basement of the Warnersville Methodist Episcopal Church — currently known as St. Matthews United Methodist Church. Initially a co-ed institution, Bennett later underwent a major transition in 1926, shifting its focus on becoming a four-year women’s college.

4. Delaware State University

Founded in 1891 as The Delaware College for Colored Students, Delaware State University is one of the first land-grant educational institutions in the United States. Over 50 years after its founding, the school earned its first provisional accreditation and changed its name to “Delaware State College,” later changing its name to what we know it as today.

Ranked as one of the top 10 HBCUs, DSU has also become one of the fastest-growing colleges. According to a report released by the university in November 2023, Del State saw an impressive increase in enrollment with over 6,451 attending students — an increase of 3.5 percent compared to their numbers in 2022 and 23 percent since 2020.

5. University of the Virgin Islands

OGs may recognize this school from season four of BET’s “College Hill,” but did you know the University of the Virgin Islands is an HBCU? Founded in 1962, UVI is the only HBCU based outside the continental United States. Since the campus enrollment rate has less than 2,000 attending students, according to the university’s website, the community remains tight-knit. Besides, who wouldn’t want to enjoy paradise as they attend school?

6. Bowie State University

The DC area also has several HBCUs. Bowie State University, founded in 1865, is the oldest HBCU in Maryland and one of the oldest in the country. Four years after it took on its current name, the institution became the first HBCU to expand overseas, offering graduate programs for military personnel stationed abroad. BSU has some notable alumni and attendees, including Toni and Towanda Braxton, former NFL running back Isaac Redman, and Wale, who transferred from another HBCU on this list: Virginia State University.

7. Virginia State University

Established in 1882 as the first fully state-supported, four-year institution for African American education, Virginia State University provides opportunities to both its attending students and the surrounding community.

In 2022, the university established a program that offers free tuition to graduate students who agree to work in the local school systems after obtaining their degrees. VSU proves that HBCUs are well-needed resources for the Black community and can make a difference within its boundaries and beyond.

8. Central State University

Central State University is the second HBCU located in Ohio, founded in 1887 after Wilberforce University. As of 2024, the institution offers over 41 academic degree programs with an emphasis on STEM, ensuring that it “can compete in a global, tech-driven market,” according to its website.

Notable alumni from CSU include Blackground Records’ founder Barry Hankerson, former political aide Omarosa Onee Newman and actor Orlando Brown.

9. Tougaloo College

In 1869, the American Missionary Association of New York founded Tougaloo College after purchasing 500 acres of land from a plantation owner.

Nestled in Jackson, Mississippi, Tougaloo has a special place in Black history and culture. It was at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement in its home state and became a refuge and strategy-building forum for Freedom Riders and civil rights activists. Additionally, the college is notable for the Tougaloo Nine, a group of Black students who staged and participated in sit-ins at segregated locations throughout Mississippi in 1961.

Notable alumni include actress Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor and civil rights activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland.

10. Winston-Salem State University

Since 1892, Winston-Salem State University has played a significant role in advancing education and empowering underrepresented communities. Remaining true to their motto, “Enter to learn. Depart to serve,” decades later, the North Carolina college is a statewide leader in producing healthcare professionals. WSSU also takes pride in housing the region’s only nursing program to offer a doctorate in nursing practice.

11. Mississippi Valley State University

Established in the state’s historical Delta in 1950, Mississippi Valley State University is one of the youngest HBCUs in the nation. As of 2024, the institution offers degrees in five areas: teaching, criminal justice, elementary education, environmental health and special education.

MVSU is also home to the nationally renowned Mean Green Marching Machine, which has performed at major events including U.S. presidential inaugurations and the Indianapolis 500. Two of the institute’s notable grads are former NFL players David “Deacon” Jones and Jerry Rice.

12. Fort Valley State University

Ranked as the top public HBCU in Georgia, Fort Valley State University is the No. 1 producer of African Americans with bachelor's degrees in STEM and agriculture, according to its website. Since its founding in 1895, the school has achieved exciting milestones such as the establishment of its graduate program in 1946 and alumna Catherine Hardy Lavender winning a gold medal in the 1952 Olympics.

13. Selma University

Selma, Alabama is a significant location in Black history — most notable for being a hotspot during the Civil Rights Movement. Therefore, it’s only right that the city’s historically Black community has an HBCU nearby. The institution was established in 1878 to provide education to Black ministers and freedmen, and after undergoing multiple name changes, the establishment officially became Selma University by the early 1900s.

Today, SU continues to foster a religious space for their community through their higher Christian education and emphasis on the importance of servant leadership.

14. Stillman College

Originally named the Tuscaloosa Institute, the Stillman Institute started out as a concept in 1876. Created by the pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa, Dr. Charles Allen Stillman, the school’s mission was to educate Black men in preparation for the ministry. After shifting its focus to expand to a liberal arts institution, the establishment was renamed Stillman College in 1948.

As of March 2024, SC has nearly 800 attending students across various degree programs, including business and STEM. It also houses a special hidden gem: The "Pride of the South," also known as the "Blue Pride" Marching Tiger Band.

15. Edward Waters University

Founded in 1866, Edward Waters University is Florida's oldest independent institution of higher learning. As the first HBCU in the state, the Jacksonville university was established by the African Methodist Episcopal Church to address the need for education for emancipated people. With a legacy of producing leaders and civil rights activists such as A. Philip Randolph, EWU continues to uphold its esteemed reputation as a distinguished HBCU.

16. Fisk University

Fisk University has been another cornerstone in Black history. Established after the Civil War in 1866, FU provided educational opportunities for emancipated Black people and their descendants. Most notably, the institution’s musical ensemble, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, helped sustain the university financially and raised awareness about the importance of education for Black Americans.

The ensemble earned widespread recognition and praise, resulting in an induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2000. At the 63rd annual Grammy Awards, the Fisk Jubilee Singers won Best Roots Gospel Album for Celebrating Fisk! (The 150th Anniversary Album).

17. Xavier University of Louisiana

In 1925, Philadelphia heiress Katharine Drexel founded Xavier University of Louisiana to educate Black people during the Jim Crow era. Today, the college stands out for being the only Catholic HBCU in the nation. Despite being a smaller institution in comparison to its counterparts, XULA is one of the top producers of students of color with medical degrees and doctorates in health sciences, according to the university’s website.

18. Tuskegee University

As its inaugural teacher, Booker T. Washington established Tuskegee University on today’s sprawling 5,000-acre Alabama campus. The grounds — now adorned with over 100 major buildings and structures — are designated as a National Historic Site.

One of the university's most notable achievements was the establishment of the Tuskegee Airmen flight training program during World War II, which dispatched an all-Black squadron to the battlefield. TU is home to distinguished alumni such as singer Lionel Richie, actor Keenen Ivory Wayans and civil rights activist Dr. Betty Shabazz.

19. Tennessee State University

While HBCUs are generally known for their remarkable marching bands, Tennessee State University's is one of the most notable of the bunch. The Aristocrat of Bands was the first HBCU ensemble of its kind on national television, as they graced the NFL halftime show in 1955. The band also had gigs during pivotal points of history, including a performance at President John F. Kennedy's inaugural parade in 1961. In 2023, the AOB became the first HBCU marching band to win a Grammy for their debut album, The Urban Hymnal.

TSU has produced numerous accomplished alumni, including Oprah Winfrey.

20. Southern University and A&M College

Established in New Orleans in 1880, Southern University and A&M College began its mission of providing a public higher education platform for Louisiana's Black community. Its marching band, the Human Jukebox, is regarded among the nation's best. The ensemble has graced several prestigious stages, including the Super Bowl, Inauguration Day parades and the Rose Bowl Parades. It also earned a co-sign from Lizzo, who invited the band and the university's Dancing Dolls team to be in her video for “Good as Hell.”

21. Albany State University

Albany State University in Georgia has a storied history rooted in resilience and academic excellence. ASU’s community gained national recognition during the Civil Rights Movement for their pivotal role in fostering activism and social change. During the desegregation movement, many of the institution’s students protested alongside distinguished leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The courageous actions of its scholars, faculty and alumni helped galvanize the fight against segregation and injustice, leaving an indelible mark on the nation's history.

22. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Leading as the nation's largest HBCU for a 10th year in a row as of September 2023, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University boasted an enrollment of over 10,000 students for its 2021-22 school year. The essence of N.C. A&T’s rich history and involvement in the Civil Rights Movement live within its student body; the school is most notable for the A&T Four, a group of freshman students who protested segregation in North Carolina by staging lunch sit-ins.

N.C. A&T is home to many famous alumni, including Jesse L. Jackson Sr. As well as on-air personality and former BET “106 & Park” host Terrence J.

23. Lincoln University

Founded in 1854, Lincoln University was the first degree-granting HBCU in the country and boasts a legacy of influential leaders across various fields, such as Thurgood Marshall and Langston Hughes. The school’s commitment to cultivating intellectual curiosity, critical thinking and cultural awareness continues to shape the lives of its students and the broader community.