Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are higher learning institutions established in the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries primarily for the education of Black Americans. Most HBCUs were founded after the Civil War, during the Reconstruction era, with the purpose of providing higher education opportunities for Black Americans who were previously denied access to mainstream institutions due to segregation and racial discrimination. Today, these same schools still provide opportunities for Black Americans to embrace their culture while getting their education. With many schools existing around the country, certain ones have been regarded as the best HBCUs.  

The top HBCUs are often ranked based on various criteria such as academic excellence, student outcomes, notable alumni, campus facilities and more. Here is a list of the top 10 best HBCUs, along with what makes them stand out.

Spelman College

Spelman consistently ranks at number one as the best HBCU and is recognized for its rigorous liberal arts curriculum, strong emphasis on STEM fields and vibrant campus life. Spelman College, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a prestigious, historically black liberal arts college that exclusively accepts women. The college was established in 1881 and is renowned for its commitment to academic excellence and social justice. High graduation rates and strong student outcomes make it such a highly prestigious school, with many graduates pursuing advanced degrees or successful careers in various fields. Notable alumnae include Alice Walker (author of “The Color Purple”), Stacey Abrams (politician) and Marian Wright Edelman (children’s rights activist). The campus features modern facilities, including state-of-the-art science labs and comprehensive support services that foster student success and leadership.

Howard University

Howard University, located in Washington, D.C., is one of the most prominent historically Black universities in the United States, founded in 1867. It offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across its thirteen schools and colleges, including highly regarded schools of law, medicine and business. Some of the notable aspects of this University include rigorous academics, beloved campus culture and a strong commitment to research and community service. The university also boasts high graduation rates and excellent job placement and graduate school admission statistics. Its notable alumni include Vice President Kamala Harris, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and actor Chadwick Boseman. The campus features extensive libraries, cutting-edge research facilities and a variety of cultural and social organizations to ensure a dynamic and supportive environment for students.

Tuskegee University

Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama is a renowned university founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington. It is recognized as one of the best HBCUs for its historic commitment to providing practical education and empowering Black Americans in various fields, particularly veterinary medicine, engineering and the sciences. Tuskegee strengths include a strong academic reputation and a legacy of producing groundbreaking research and innovative thinkers. The university’s notable alumni include scientist George Washington Carver, radio host Tom Joyner and musician Lionel Richie. The campus features modern facilities like a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital and extensive agricultural resources, alongside historic landmarks. Tuskegee’s dedication to excellence, service and community engagement distinguishes it as a leading institution among HBCUs.

Hampton University

Hampton University, located in Hampton, Virginia, is a distinguished HBCU founded in 1868. The university is known for its strong academic programs and offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degrees, with particular strengths in pharmacy, nursing, engineering and business. Hampton emphasizes career readiness, evidenced by its high job placement rates and successful alumni. These notable graduates include Booker T. Washington, comedian Wanda Sykes and Alberta Williams King, mother of Martin Luther King Jr. Hampton’s waterfront campus is also modernly beautiful and features modern academic buildings, state-of-the-art research facilities and historic landmarks.

Morehouse College

Morehouse College, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a renowned historically black liberal arts college for men, founded in 1867. It is celebrated as one of the best HBCUs for its rigorous academic programs and strong emphasis on developing leadership skills. Morehouse offers a comprehensive liberal arts education with notable strengths in business, the sciences and the humanities. The college has a high graduation rate and a legacy of producing influential leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., filmmaker Spike Lee, and actor Samuel L. Jackson. The campus is equipped with modern facilities, including advanced science labs and a new student center. Morehouse’s commitment to social justice, ethical leadership and global awareness makes it a standout institution among HBCUs.

Florida A&M University (FAMU)

Florida A&M University (FAMU) is located in Tallahassee, Florida and was founded in 1887. It is a leading public HBCU renowned for its robust academic programs, particularly in pharmacy, engineering, business and the sciences. FAMU is distinguished by its commitment to research, innovation and providing opportunities for underrepresented students. The university boasts high job placement rates and a strong track record of graduates excelling in professional fields and graduate studies. Notable alumni include tennis champion Althea Gibson, rapper and actor Common and actress Anika Noni Rose. Also, the campus features state-of-the-art research centers, vibrant student life and extensive athletic facilities to create the dynamic and supportive environment for student achievement and development the university is known for. 

North Carolina A&T State University

North Carolina A&T State University is renowned for its strong programs in engineering, agriculture and business, making it one of the best HBCUs in STEM education. It is located in Greensboro, North Carolina and was founded in 1891. The university’s commitment to research and innovation is evident through its cutting-edge facilities and extensive research initiatives. NC A&T boasts high job placement rates, particularly in engineering and technology fields and its graduates are well-prepared for professional and academic success. Notable alumni include civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, actress Taraji P. Henson and NASA astronaut Ronald McNair. The vibrant campus features state-of-the-art labs, a new student union and a dynamic student life that fosters leadership and community engagement.

Xavier University of Louisiana

Xavier University of Louisiana is a prestigious historically Black Catholic university located in New Orleans, Louisiana and founded in 1915. Renowned for its strong emphasis on preparing students for careers in medicine and the sciences, Xavier consistently ranks as a top producer of Black American graduates who earn medical degrees. The university offers a rigorous academic curriculum with particular strengths in the sciences and pharmacy, as well as a great campus life that promotes cultural awareness and community engagement. Notable alumni include Regina Benjamin, the 18th Surgeon General of the United States, and Norman Francis, the longtime university president. Xavier’s modern science and pharmacy labs, along with its commitment to social justice and service, are even more aspects that contribute to its standing as a leading institution in both HBCUs and the broader academic community.

Clark Atlanta University

Clark Atlanta University is a renowned HBCU formed in 1988 through the consolidation of two historically black institutions: Atlanta University (established in 1865) and Clark College (founded in 1869). The university offers a diverse range of undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, with notable strengths in business, communications and the social sciences. Clark Atlanta University is distinguished by its commitment to academic excellence, social justice and community engagement. Its notable alumni include civil rights leader Ralph David Abernathy, television producer Kenya Barris and journalist Jacque Reid. The campus features modern media and business schools, historic landmarks and a great campus culture. Clark Atlanta University’s legacy of producing leaders and change-makers underscores it’s considered one of the best HBCUs.

Dillard University

Dillard University, located in New Orleans, Louisiana, is a prestigious historically black liberal arts university founded in 1930. Dillard offers a comprehensive academic curriculum renowned for its strong programs in the humanities, social sciences and nursing. The university’s strengths include high rates of graduate school admissions and job placements in healthcare and education. Notable alumni include actor Garrett Morris, historian John W. Blassingame and Ruth Simmons, the former president of Brown University. Other notable features of Dillard include its campus which features modern science and health sciences buildings, historic architecture and comprehensive student support services.