The Black Ivy League: 10 Amazing Schools

The Black Ivy League schools are historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the U.S. primarily attracting African American students. These schools were originally built specifically for black American students.

Since the 1960s, these institutions have actively recruited black mentors who now play executive roles in various schools. Mentors act as presidents, professors, head athletic coaches, and deans. During the late 20th century, students attended these schools to acquire skills and learn trades. These institutions focused on upholding academic excellence for black Americans. 

In 1952, Fisk University became the first HBCU to charter a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Kappa’s membership indicates that a student is among the top college graduates in the liberal arts and sciences. In HBCU history, Morehouse has produced the largest number of Rhodes scholars while Howard has produced the highest number of black doctorates.

From 1999, many HBCUs launched initiatives where families can access financial aid. The initiative is based on making higher education more affordable to all students. Also, these institutions provide both undergraduate education and graduate-level professional programs.

While there is no agreed-upon source for which schools are constituents of the Black Ivy League, some names appear more frequently than others. Today, we dive deep into 10 amazing schools frequently dubbed as “Black Ivy League” schools.

Howard University (Washington, DC.)

Howard University
Derek E. Morton, Howard University Washington DC – Founders Library, CC BY-SA 4.0

Howard University is a private Black Ivy League school located in Washington, DC offering undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. Howard is home to more than 120 programs, making it among the most academically broad HBCUs. 

Because of Howard’s outstanding commitment to research, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions designated the school as an “R2 – High Research Activity” university. This label is given to less than 5% of all schools nationwide.

In May 2016, President Obama delivered a commencement address at the institution encouraging the graduates to be advocates for racial equality. Four years later in July of 2020, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated $40 million to Howard University. This is the single largest gift to Howard in its long and storied history.

The school has a number of notable professors, including Roscoe Bartlett, a member of Congress, Charles Drew, a blood shipment pioneer, and Charles Hamilton Houston, a prominent civil rights lawyer. Alumni of Howard University include Kamala Harris, the current Vice President of the United States.


Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA)

Morehouse College
Thomson200, Graves Hall, Morehouse College 2016, CC0 1.0

Morehouse College is not only the largest men’s liberal arts college in the US, it is also among the most accomplished small colleges in the US. Alumni accomplishments include 11 Fulbright Scholars, five Rhodes scholars, and five Marshall Scholars. 

Morehouse is perhaps most famous for several of its alumni, some of whom are among the most accomplished and influential individuals in the world. They include civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., actor Samuel L. Jackson, theologian Howard Thurman, and filmmaker Spike Lee.

Speaking of Martin Luther King, Morehouse is home to the “King Collection,” a 10,000 piece collection of original documents authored by the civil rights leader himself. When appraised by the Library of Congress, this collection was worth well over $20 million dollars.

Several notable publications have ranked Morehouse among the best colleges in the country. They include Forbes magazine, which ranked it No. 5 in 2015 for Most Entrepreneurial College in the US.

Morehouse has been on the rise, receiving a $40 million donation from Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings in June of 2020 and an additional $20 million donation from Mackenzie Scott the very next month.


Spelman College (Atlanta, GA)

Spelman College
Thomson200, Spelman College gates, CC0 1.0

Spelman College is a black women’s liberal arts college and a constituent of the Atlanta University Center, a consortium of higher education institutions. Spelman was founded as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary in 1881, then became a collegiate charter in 1924. It is the oldest liberal arts college for black women.

Student life and activities are abundant at Spelman College, with something to offer every student on campus. Activities include a literary magazine, a student newspaper, several religious organizations, and over one dozen honors societies!

Spelman’s Museum of Fine Art is a unique institution. According to Spelman College, it is the only museum in the entire world dedicated to “art by and about women of the African Diaspora.” Each semester, Spelman’s Museum of Fine Art features new and past exhibits by contemporary black artists. Some of these include works by Mickalene Thomas, Amy Sherald, and Reneé Stout. 

Spelman has produced a number of influential alumnae, including Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker, first African-American CEO of Sam’s Club Rosalind Brewer, and civil rights and criminal defense lawyer Dovey Johnson Roundtree.

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