Today in the United States there are over 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). How and why did these institutions come about, and what is their importance? Originally, African American institutions such as churches and schools were used as safe spaces for black fugitives and place where blacks could learn to read and write. These institutions were instated to add value to the lives of African Americans. Black ChurchesFollowing the Civil War black churches became safe spaces for African Americans.
Black churches were used as community centers which housed schools, antislavery societies, shelter for fugitive slaves, etc. Congregations led bed by black ministers and preachers were used to headstart schools and other needed associations. Church officials also spoke out against racial injustice, slavery, and the weaknesses of the community. “Churches such as the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) were home to 296 congregations with and held over 17,000 members in 1846”.
However, many blacks remained with white affiliated churches even though they treated blacks as second- class citizens. “At these white affiliated churches black would have to sit in “negro pews,” and received communion after the whites”. SchoolsSchools for black Americans were originally apart of black churches.
Churches like the AME and Lloyd’s Baptist Church in Bethesda, Maryland taught children to read in sunday school. As time went on educators and activists began creating schools outside of the church for black students. Some of these schools included the Richmond Colored Normal School (formerly known as Armstrong High School) in Richmond, Virginia. The foundation of schools exclusively for blacks was a direct result of segregation.
Between 1820 to 1860 schools were still widely segregated in the North, with little to no racial integration. “In other areas such as the northwest blacks were not included in the public school system and the government had no interest in funding separate schools”. In addition, schools that were segregated and predominantly black were ran down, overcrowded and severely lacked supplies and adequate instructors. On the other hand, the few schools that were integrated posed many adversities for black students, as they were tormented by other students as well as adults. “As a result, black leaders pushed racially integrated schools in the 1830’s”. With the help of leaders such as Frederick Douglass Massachusetts pushed to desegregate all schools by 1855. Because of the hard work of these leaders schools such as the Ashmun Institute (one of the first schools for black students) was developed.
” Voluntary Associations Voluntary Associations included mutual aid, benevolent, self- improvement, and fraternal organization. Women took a leading role in the mutual aid societies and led groups such as the African Dorcas Assoc. and NYC’s Assoc. for the Benefit of Colored Orphans. Fraternal organizations like the Prince Hall Masons and Black Odd Fellows lodges united black men.
The most prevalent were self-improvement, library, literary and temperance organizations which came out of the reform spirit following the revolution and into the 1830’s. Phoenix Literary Society (NY), and Boston’s Adelphi Union for the Promotion of Literature and Science are examples. Black temperance societies were also widespread and led by middle class activists.” Conclusively, due to the treatment of blacks in America’s institutions, community leaders were forced to come together to make it so that there were safe spaces for black Americans. From school houses in churches to major institutions, the journey has been long and hard and blacks have fought tirelessly to achieve their own major institutions to cater to one another. HBCUs among many other institutions were started in the spirit of black liberation and will continue to make safe comfortable spaces for individuals of color.