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Historically Black Colleges and Universities

By Wilvena T. McDowell
Assistant Director of Admissions, North Carolina A&T State University

As the structure of America continues to evolve more into a multicultural environment, many business, political, and medical organizations have reconstructed their mission statements to reflect the need for employees who possess the ability not only to excel in their work but to adapt to diverse surroundings and to interface with domestic and international facets of the corporate arena.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's) across the nation, founded primarily by African American educators for the purpose of providing education for minorities, have been credited with recognizing the importance of preparing students to work in a multicultural environment while excelling in their professional fields. HBCU's provide an academic atmosphere which recognizes, responds, and appreciates the diverse backgrounds and qualifications of thousands of students that annually enroll at these institutions. For many African Americans and other minorities, HBCU's offer a realistic perspective of how corporate America operates so that upon graduation these students will be ready to face all challenges and to offer solutions for positive change. Embracing multiculturalism also contributes to increased annual enrollment by White, Asian and Hispanic student populations at these schools. The HBCU environment offers valuable experience interacting with diversity and equips these students with the skills and confidence to succeed in a multicultural setting.

Many students also benefit from attending an HBCU because they can participate in an environment where they are transformed from a minority into a majority. This shift fosters an atmosphere where people can feel free to express their opinions openly, where students of all races can feel like they belong regardless of the color of their skin.

Prominent leaders from these institutions include:

  • Oprah Winfrey (Tennessee State University) - Famous talk show host
  • Rev. Jessie Jackson (North Carolina A&T) - Civil rights activist and the U.S.'s first African American presidential nominee
  • Dr. Joe Dudley (North Carolina A&T) - CEO/Founder of Dudley Products, a multi-million dollar corporation
  • Andrew Young (Howard University) - U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and former Mayor of Atlanta
  • Thurgood Marshall (Lincoln University-Pennsylvania) - The first African American judge to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court

These leaders highlight the rich history of HBCU's and the contributions of HBCU alumni to our world today.

These prominent leaders serve as inspirational role-models, propelling students attending HBCU's to seek boundaries beyond "glass-ceiling" limits. They illustrate the power of an HBCU education to prepare students for success in majority-dominated fields. The cultural interaction students encounter at HBCU's in their degree programs allow them to adapt to the ever-changing structure of America's diverse workplace and exposes students to the multicultural environment they need in order to be effective in today's global economy.

About the School

North Carolina A&T State University is one of two land grant institutions within the State of North Carolina. The university has an enrollment of over 10,000 students, expanding over 188 beautiful acres in the heart of the Piedmont Triad Region. According to Black Issues in Higher Education magazine, NC A&T SU produces more African American engineers than any other college or university in America. For more information please visit our website at