Exhibit Overview

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are valuable institutions that provide intellectual domains for racial uplift, racial refuge, and cultural empowerment within a continually polarized nation” (The Athletic Experience at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Past, Present, and Persistence)

Two Graduates Embrace at Commencement

Two Graduates Embrace at Clark Atlanta University Commencement, 1989

On February 25, 1837, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania became the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in the United States. With its establishment, a legacy was created. After the Civil War, more HBCUs were established. HBCUs were established to provide education opportunities for African Americans who previously had no access to education. They had humble beginnings with classes conducted in people’s homes, church basements, and old schoolhouses. Through the Morrill Act of 1890, states were required to provide land-grants for colleges to serve Black students. This act allowed HBCUs to build their own campuses. The Higher Education Act of 1965 created the designation of Historically Black College and Universities, which solidified the significance of the schools that first gave Black students the opportunity to obtain higher education. HBCUs exist today because of the experience and culture. They were the hub for activism during the Jim Crow era. They prepare each generation of students for the challenges they will face and create Black leaders.

Unidentified Students and Professor in Classroom

Unidentified Atlanta University Students and Professor in Classroom, undated

The Atlanta University Center is the largest consortium of HBCUs. The consortium was established in 1929 through the Agreement of Affiliation between Atlanta University, Spelman College, and Morehouse College. Throughout its history, its members have included Atlanta University, Clark College, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Morris Brown College, Interdenominational Theological Center, and Morehouse School of Medicine. Students of the AUC participate in a unique HBCU experience through the expanded and enhanced educational environment of the Atlanta University Center. Each campus has its own traditions and culture. Students are able to experience homecomings, events, athletics, clubs, and organizations, and more during their time at an AUC school.

Homecoming queen Irene Burch Williams, and runner up Lithia Bailey, Clark, 1928<br />

Clark College Homecoming queen Irene Burch Williams, and runner up Lithia Bailey, 1928

This exhibit celebrates student life at both past and current schools in the Atlanta University Center. Through archival materials held in the Archives Research Center of the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library, this exhibit illustrates various aspects of student life from fraternities and sororities to homecoming and events. Collections include the Atlanta University Photographs, Clark College Photographs, the Interdenominational Theological Center Audio Visual collection, the Hugh M. Gloster collection, the Edward A. Jones papers, and the Morris Brown College Photographs.

Exhibit created by Brittany Newberry.

Information from this section of the exhibit was obtained from the following sources: 

  1. The Athletic Experience at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: 
    Past, Present, and Persistence
    edited by Billy Hawkins; Joseph Cooper; Akilah Carter-Francique and J. Kenyatta Cavil
  2. The Black Colleges of Atlanta by Rodney T Cohen
  3. "Historically Black Colleges and Universities," Affordable Colleges Online
  4. "HBCUs: The history and importance of historically black colleges and universities," by Arianna Herriott, Scripps Media, Inc.
Exhibit Overview