Public HBCUs

Original site of KY State

Kentucky State University, one of the state’s two accredited HBCUs, has a long and storied history. The first permanent building on the campus, Jackson Hall, appears on the National Register. Directly in front of the Jackson Hall is a historic marker with an overview of the university’s founding: Kentucky State University chartered in 1886; opened in 1887 with three teachers and 55 students. The first state-supported institution of higher education for Africans, Kentucky State U. gained funds from legislature for building and teachers, and from Frankfort city council for site and clearing of grounds. Ky State earned four-year college status in 1931, and achieved university status in 1972.


As the public university in the state’s capital, Kentucky State University attracts a large number of government employees. Subsequently, the Ky State U educates a higher proportion of adult learners (students aged 25 and older) and European Americans than most HBCU. Walking on campus, however, KySU student life closely resembles the activities I have seen at other HBCU.

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Located between the two largest cities in Kentucky, Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky State University attracts students from the state’s urban centers as well as the Bluegrass state’s “hills and hollows.”  Students appear really involved and engaged around campus, during my visit I saw campaign signs for student government positions and student organizations hosting cookouts.


Kentucky State University: enter to learn go out to serve.





SSU Historic Marker 20150513_153142


Savannah State University is the oldest public college located in the oldest city in Georgia. Originally designated as Georgia’s Black land-grant college, the land-grant has since been transferred to Fort Valley State University, Savannah State University still conducts basic and applied research to improve the lives of Georgia’s underserved population.



HBCU Trek Voyager Carl Darnell and SSU Student Ceasar

Savannah State was established in 1890 with a handful of students. SSU now enrolls 4,800 students in 27 majors each year, housing many of the students on campus.  Student organizations including the National Pan-Hellenic Council, music/band fraternities, and the student government association make life on campus active and unforgettable.

SSU Alpha Plot on the yard




Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Plot


Student life is centered around the Yard. The SSU Yard, a circle-shaped courtyard lined by admissions, student union, administration, and academic buildings, hosts the student organization plots and a mobile stage for performances and showcases.  A brightly decorated statue of a tiger, the SSU mascot, stands as the centerpiece of the Yard, a testament to the students’ school pride.

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As the University by the sea, SSU specializes in oceanic and marine research.  To highlight the school’s prowess in developing marine scientists, SSU provides a lists of its accomplishments on its website:

  • 19% of Bachelor’s degree graduates entered Master’s or Doctoral degrees
  • 30% of Master’s degree graduates entered Doctoral programs
  • 33% of Master’s degrees in marine/ocean sciences earned by African Americans in the U.S. from 2004-2007 were earned at SSU
  • 10% of African American Master’s and Doctoral students in marine/ocean sciences in 2007 were either enrolled in the Master’s program at SSU or were former SSU students enrolled in Doctoral programs elsewhere
  • 20% of masters graduates went on to Ph.D programs in past three years. (NSF/NIH survey spring 2011)
  • 47% of masters graduates found jobs in research-oriented careers in past three years. (NSF/NIH survey spring 2011)



Directly behind the dining hall lies a marsh leading to the Atlantic Ocean.

With reputable academic programs, engaging campus life, and the excellent setting on the eastern coast of Georgia, it is easy to see how Savannah State University is Rising.


The following images present more of the memorable sites and scenes from my tour of the campus.

20150513_145939Wright Hall and the Savannah State University water tower


Gym equipment renovations taking place in the Savannah State University workout facility: the Body Shop.

The Bodyshop SSU Weight Room

Savannah State University weight room

SSU Gordon LibraryThe Asa H. Gordon Library

Gordon Library Lobby

Savannah State University Gordon Library Lobby

Gordon Library 1st Floor

Gordon Library study areas



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Carl at Denmark Tech Entrance 20150312_180033


Denmark Technical College, boasting over 1,800 students as of Fall 2013, has an enrollment and employee population that would make up 2 out of every five citizens in the city of Denmark, South Carolina. Denmark Tech impressively utilizes 53 acres of land to accommodate its growing student body in 18 buildings including facilities for on-campus living, inter-collegiate athletics programs, technology centers, labs, shops, administration, and students services. Denmark Tech is a public, two-year comprehensive institution which, as the name suggests, specializes in preparing people for careers in technical fields. Half of Denmark Tech’s students are of the age of twenty-five and over, and 97 percent of the student body identifies as Black and/or African American. Located 50 miles from the state’s capital of Columbia, 50 miles from Augusta, Georgia, a few miles from fellow South Carolina HBCUs Claflin and South Carolina State, and literally across a fence from Historically Black Voorhees College, Denmark Technical College is well-located to host a growing student body and help interested students transfer to quality bachelor’s degree-granting institutions. As a result, Denmark Tech reported awarding 500 degrees and certificates in the 2012-2013 academic term. In short, Denmark Tech is a place “Where great things are happening.”

Rhoades Hall 20150312_175530DTC Blatt Hall

DTC Technology Center 20150312_175629Carroll_Lebby Library 20150312_175643

DTC Campus Directory 20150312_175941Engineering Tech Center 20150312_175822

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“A&M, A&M, A&M, A&M, U, wooooo, a …”


I heard the Alabama A&M chant throughout my childhood in Huntsville, Alabama. More than the chant, A&M line dances, marching band routines, and majorette eight counts were passed down to several of the high schools and multiple middle schools in north Alabama. At each football and basketball game, you could be sure to hear a high school band play song that closely resembled the pieces performed by the Alabama A&M Marching band.

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More than music and athletics, the people of North Alabama were influenced by the scores of A&M teachers, teaching assistants, substitute teachers, camp counselors, and community center employees dotted throughout the region.  A&M alumni teach classes, lead workshops, and serve in churches throughout the Alabama and their influence is widespread.

As a public land-grant institution, A&M has extension staff working all over the state of Alabama.  In addition to their extension services, A&M’s agricultural work with forestry gives them access to over 2000 acres of land that spans three area codes from Huntsville to south Alabama past the cities of Auburn and Tuskegee.

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Currently, Alabama A&M University serves over 5,300 students and boasts more than 40,000 alumni world-wide.  From the original Hooper Councill Training school to the new expansions on campus resulting from Knight v Alabama desegregation case settlement money, Alabama A&M University is merging its historic past with its progressive future to provide opportunities for forgotten and underserved sons and daughters of North Alabama and the entire Tennessee Valley.

Alabama A&M University, though technically located in Normal, AL, is surrounded on every side by the city of Huntsville, the fourth largest city and second largest metropolitan service area in the state of Alabama.  Originally located in downtown Hunstville, Alabama A&M was Huntsville’s only public 4-year higher education institution for 75 years until the establishment of University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) in 1950.  Alabama A&M was nearly all Black, and UAH is branch of the same school that resisted the federal government’s demand to desegregate, thus creating a race-based dual-system of higher education in Hunstville.  College desegregation lawsuits and federal policies have ruled in favor Alabama A&M, providing additional funds to the campus for capital improvements resulting in the a new athletic facility, residence center, and numerous academic buildings on the campus.  “The Hill” is still recognizable to older alum, while providing new state of the art facilities for today’s tech savvy college students.

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Boasting the city’s only college football team, Alabama A&M attracts a respectable crowd for Saturday night home football games and its marching band has total influence on North Alabama’s high school and middle school bands.  The football stadium hosts a number of high school football games and the Agricultural Exhibition Center puts on events that draws various population groups to the campus.  Alabama A&M has a strong and significant influence on the majority Black north Huntsville area, and the greater Tennessee Valley region.  Alabama A&M has 140 years of making the world better for our people and I look forward to 140 more years of the Bulldog boogie.

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Fayetteville State University Broncos

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According to the historic markers, Fayetteville State University was established in 1867,making it the second oldest public college in the state of North Carolina.  As a part of the University of North Carolina, Fayetteville State University is led by a chancellor.  Due to the leadership of its chancellors, faculty, and staff Fayetteville State University is well-known for the nursing program in the beautiful Southeastern North Carolina Nursing Education and Research Center and well-respected for its multiple partnerships with the U.S. military and establishment of a Center for Defense and Homeland Security.  Beyond the academic accolades, Fayetteville State University offers a lot to its 6000+ student body in the form of campus amenities and aesthetics.   There are at least three statues of Fayetteville State Broncos on the campus greeting people onto the grounds and into the athletic fields. Ceremonies seem to be constantly taking place in the Seabrook Auditorium, I actually stepped into an awards ceremony by accident when I came to the campus.  Modern on-campus accommodations for students include McLeod Hall, University Place Apartments, and the crown jewel Renaissance Hall.

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In addition to military personnel, adult learners, and traditional undergraduates, the Fayetteville State University campus also serves as the host site for two high schools: Cumberland International Early College High School and Cross Creek Early College High School.  With a pipeline of Upward Bound, Educational Talent Search, GEAR UP, two high schools on campus, a partnership with a third high school less than a mile away, and the FSU-Fort Bragg Center satellite with weekend and evening classes on the U.S. Air Force base, Fayetteville State University is poised to continue being a “beacon of guidance and inspiration,” further developing citizens who believe in “deeds not words.”

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Bronco statue and trademark at the entrance to the football field and basketball arena

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Voyager Carl Darnell with Fayetteville State Bronco and staff in the administration building

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Living-Learning Center and traditional style residence hall for underclassmen

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Interesting architecture on campus, the metal and glass structure is home to the Cumberland International Early College High School


Historic spot on campus, water spigot set up by the former slaves who once lived in Fayetteville.

For more information search the Fayetteville State University website

Southern University Lab School SU old library20141217_145127 Southern University Law Center Southern University Services Building

Baton Rouge, Louisiana home to the 512 acre, 6700+ students, Historically Black land-grant university Southern University. Advances in engineering and nursing academic programs, success in the Southwestern athletic conference, and hosting one of the few law schools of any HBCU have led to the sustainability of Southern University among the most well-known Black colleges.  Southern University and A&M College has traditionally been one of the largest Historically Black Colleges facilitating academic programs throughout the state of Louisiana that draw students mostly from its home parish of East Baton Rouge, and also from other states such as Texas, California, Georgia, Illinois, and Mississippi. Southern University Baton Rouge’s unique role as the main campus of a multiple university system, Southern is the only Historically Black university system in the United States, also adds to the institutions reputation and renown.  Contributing to Southern’s popularity among African American communities, the Human Jukebox and SU Dancing Dolls have wowed crowds and inspired budding performing artists together since 1969.

20141217_145950 Mural at Southern University

The Campus is full of art, from sculptures in the middle of campus and a jaguar guarding the library to the symbolic Red Stick overlooking the Mississippi River, culture is alive and well at Southern University.  In terms of culture and history, a interesting fact I learned driving to Southern is that part of the Mississippi River that borders the campus is called the Mulatto Bend.  If that was not enough, the area directly across the river from Southern University is an area deemed Free Negro Point.  Southern is a unique place indeed, one definitely worth a visit.

Southern University Benches Mulatto Bend Free Negro Point Crevasse


Southern University Law Center

Southern University student union

Southern University student union


Statue of mascot in front of library

Southern Basketball arena

Southern Basketball arena

Awesome campus. The first time I’ve ever known an HBCU to be older than its host city. The only residential Black campus I know to transition all of its residence halls to apartment-style living centers.
Nice experience, nice campus, nice students.


Residence Centers



Texas Southern University, the pride of Houston’s third ward.

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Established humbly as Houston’s Colored Junior College, rapidly expanded in light of the 1947 Sweatt court case, and sustained by pure grit, Texas Southern University has a rich history. Texas Southern University, one of only two public HBCUs in the state, has grown from a community college to a doctoral level, 4-year university in a matter of decades. Boasting Barbara Jordan as their most famous alum, scores of graduates from Texas Southern have gone on to make an impact on Houston, the state of Texas, and the American southwest.

Texas Southern University’s 150 acre campus hosts the instruction and services for over 9,600 students.  Texas Southern consists of 11 academic schools and colleges.  The Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern, is one of only five historically Black law schools in the country.

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Touring Texas Southern was exciting, a stroll down Tiger Walk winds through the entirety of campus. Tiger Walk is lined with most of the major campus buildings, the Yard, sculptures, a clock tower, and historic markers. The main library, next door to the campus theater building, is home to two annual exhibits, one dedicated to Barbara Jordan and the other celebrating art in Africa.

Traditional African Art Collection

The film and communications department was particularly active during my weekend visit. While on campus, I witnessed the students filming a meeting. I spoke with a member of the crew about previous movies the film students have made and the movie posters lining the walls of the department.  Next door in Hannah Hall, decades-old murals created by art students adorned the halls. The campus seemed warm and celebrated student creativity: a feeling directly reflected in the attitudes of the students I met.


Carl and the Carolinas: Winston-Salem,


Winston-Salem State University is a historically Black university in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  WSSU was the second institution visited in the Carl and the Carolina’s HBCU Trek, it is located approximately an hour north of Charlotte, NC and is easily accessible from the interstate. The gorgeous campus of WSSU is beset with new buildings and beautiful landscaping.

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There is a healthy mix of historic buildings being renovated to improve accessibility and safety and newer, modern structures on the campus grounds.  A statue of the institution’s founder, a skyscraping clock tower, and multiple metal sculptures accent the academic and administrative buildings around the campus.  During the campus visit the students were warm and friendly, an admission counselor was extremely helpful and open, the library is adorned with powerful Black murals and great open space for reading and studying, and there were signs of growth and progress in the recent completion of the student center and on-going renovation of the administration buildings.

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Considering the recent passing of Maya Angelou, it is special and encouraging to know that the legacy of her powerful words are memorialized on the central clock tower on the Winston-Salem State University campus. Maya Angelou’s words “One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with the potential.  Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue consistently. Without courage, we cannot be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest, consistently”.

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A small group of  visited the campus of the first Black institution that developed into what we call HBCUs. Cheyney University of Pennsylvania is located outside of Philadelphia on land donated over a century ago by a farmer named Cheyney.  Settled in the small town of Chester, Cheyney is a quiet place surrounded by farm land and a growing housing development.
Carl and Casta at CheyneyCarl and JT at Cheyney
The campus is lined with light posts waving the banners of famous Cheyney alumni like Ed Bradley and former leaders of the institution. Walking the paved walkways on a self-guided tour, my colleagues and I stopped in the student center first and had lunch in the cafeteria. Inside we met students from Philadelphia and other parts of Pennsylavania who happily talked about their majors and reasons for attending Cheyney. Interestingly, the students we spoke with had both transferred in to the university from other colleges and were eager to take full advantage of the HBCU experience. After eating, we looked around the cafeteria at the large pictures of Black people dawning the walls and the student feedback/staff response forms posted near entrance. It was great to see how open the university was to student feedback and how they posted the  anonymous feedback with signed responses from the staff that directly addressed the students’ questions and comments.


Leaving the dining hall, The Yard was beginning to fill with the smells, sights, and sounds of student activity. A couple of student organizations were barbequing at their respective plots, one playing music from a portable sound system and another using the system from a car pulled up to the yard.  Beyond the bustle outside the modern campus center, the campus was quiet and distinctly historic. Most of the buildings near the yard were lined with stone resembling cottages of an earlier era. Further toward the outskirts of the campus, bricked academic buildings took on a more modern feel, and the sciences building stood out most of all with its aluminum casing, naturally filtered rainwater pond, and new greenhouse.

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My crew ended the tour at the library.  The main floor of the library featured student art, proclamations of Cheyney’s historic founding and its impact on higher education, as well as archival photos of early 19th century classes with some of Cheyney’s first students. Though it was a Sunday afternoon, there was a significant number of students in the library working on papers and reading. Upon leaving the library we marveled at the new residence center that was nearly the largest structure on campus, took pictures of our favorite spaces, and left the historic campus with a greater feeling of HBCU love and heritage.

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It was a good visit made even better by the fact that I was able to share it with my colleagues from the AERA Conference 2014, one of which had never toured an HBCU campus. How appropriate for the first HBCU campus tour to be of the first HBCU.

Carl Darnell – April 8, 2014
Insert pictures courtesy of Casta Guillome, Jeremy Snipes, and Carl Darnell

For more information about Cheyney, visit their website

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