Prior to the Civil War, there was not a structured higher education system for Black students. Public policy and certain provisions prohibited the education of Blacks in various parts of the nation, which is why historically Black colleges and universities were so important.
The first higher education institution for Blacks called The Institute For Colored Youth was founded in Cheyney, Pennsylvania in 1837, making it the first historically Black college and university. It was followed by two other Black institutions -- Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1854 and Wilberforce University in Ohio in 1856.
Although these were called universities or institutes from their founding, According to the U.S. Department of Education, a major part of their mission in the early years was to provide elementary and secondary schooling for students who had no previous education. It was not until the early 1900s that HBCU’s began to offer courses and programs at the postsecondary level.
HBCU’s have played a historical role in enhancing equal educational opportunity for all students. By 1953, more than 32,000 students were enrolled in well known HBCU’s like Fisk University, Hampton Institute, Howard University and Morehouse College.
Today, there are 107 HBCU’s, with nine in Texas. St. Philip’s College is the only HBCU in San Antonio.