Printer-friendly page

North Carolina's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

Prior to the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, the majority of African Americans in the United States were enslaved persons living in the southern states. Education for African Americans was sparse, especially in the South with laws such as North Carolina's that prohibited teaching enslaved persons to read and write. It was a rare occurrence for an African American to be literate.  While there were a few schools dedicated to African American education in the North prior to the Civil War, the first college available to African Americans in the South was Shaw University, which opened its doors in 1865. A number of institutions dedicated specifically for the education of African Americans were founded in the era immediately following the Civil War and others followed when segregation limited equal access to education. These schools are often known as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or "HBCUs". 
North Carolina has twelve historically black colleges and universities, including the oldest in the South, Raleigh's Shaw University, founded in 1865, and North Carolina's newest HBCU, North Carolina Central University, founded in 1910 in Durham. Ten of these schools continue to operate today.

Click here for an interactive timeline of the history of North Carolina's HBCUs

Click on the images below for NCpedia articles on North Carolina's HBCUs

Shaw UniversityFayetteville State UniversityBarber-Scotia CollegeJohnson C. SmithSt. Augustine's UniversityBennett CollegeLivingstone CollegeKittrell CollegeNorth Carolina A&T State UniversityElizabeth City State CollegeWinston-Salem State UniversityNorth Carolina Central University


Barber-Scotia College (1867)
Bennett College (1873)
Elizabeth City State University (1891)
Fayetteville State University (1867)
Johnson C. Smith University (1867)
Kittrell College (1886-1975)
Livingstone College (1879)
North Carolina A & T State University (1891)
North Carolina Central University (1910)
St. Augustine’s University (1867)
Shaw University (1865)
Winston-Salem State University (1892)

Educator Resources:

Grades K-8:

Image Credits:

Contemporary photographs taken from university websites. Historic photo of Johnson C. Smith University from Digital Smith, in the Archives of the James B. Duke Library.



T’ Marrie,

Why aren’t you interest with these colleges and universities? I am sure your reason will share a little light, maximize insight, and galvanized readership.


I am looking for myself and my nephew he is an upcoming senior and I have a Bachelors looking to pursue my Masters.


Out of this list of colleges, I would find out your nephew's strong points academicly because certain schools cater best to certain schools needs and interest of the student!!


I would love to go to this college


I really love this article! I learned a lot and I also enjoyed this as well. Thank you so much for posting this. <3


Hey that wasn't the question. The question was what was the first black college in NC, which is Shaw University. It didn't say in the US.


I will be doing a special on Colleges today on the internet. good and Bad colleges.


Excellent article however the primary question was not addressed. The major question to be settled is; what was the first HBCU (historically black college or university) in the US. That answer is Lincoln University (PA). Cheyney University is a fine institution but did not originate as a college. Your article did not correctly state that Cheyney was an elementary school at its inception (Institution for Colored Youth 1837 – 1913), then a High School (Cheyney State Normal School 1913 – 1921)and later became a teachers college in 1921(Cheyney State Teachers College 1921 – 1959). Lincoln University of PA (Founded as Ashmun Institute) was and is the first HBCU. Lincoln University chartered by the State of PA in April of 1854 (then Ashmun Institute), with its original purpose for the higher education of youth of African descent. Lincoln was established under the protection of the Presbytery of New Castle in 1853, as an institution to be called Ashmun Institute, for the scientific, classical and theological education of young Black males. On April 29, 1854, Ashmun Institute received its charter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Lincoln’s graduates went on to start other colleges with a focus on educating the nation’s poor and minority population such as South Carolina State University, Livingstone College, Albany State University and several others. Lincoln University is also credited for graduates founding colleges and universities internationally. Lincoln University is also credited with educating the first presidents of Nigeria and Ghana. Lincoln also covets historically significant graduates such as Langston Hughes, Thurgood Marshall, Hildrus A. Poindexter and many others.


Thank you for posting the correction and additional information!


Michelle Underhill, Government & Heritage Library at the State Library of North Carolina.


Cheyney University was, is, and always will be THE FIRST and OLDEST HBCU in the US. The only people that try to dispute that are Lincoln University students. Everyone is else in the world sites Cheyney as the first. I get that you're proud of your school, but to try and re-write history is definitely beyond me, and should be beyond you also, especially as an African American individual like yourself

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at