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.

Tuskegee University (Tuskegee, AL) 

Tuskegee University
Skegeepedia, Tuskegee University view of valley, CC BY-SA 4.0

Formerly home to scientist and longtime professor George Washington Carver,  Tuskegee University is a private Black Ivy League school located in Tuskegee, Alabama. On April 2, 1966, the college became the first HBCU designated as a Registered National Historic Landmark.

Tuskegee is widely regarded among the most prestigious HBCUs in the country. In its most recent 2021 list, US News ranked Tuskegee #4 out of 79 HBCUs in the entire country. Additionally, Washington Monthly ranked Tuskegee in the top 25% of all schools in the country in their recent ranking on national universities.

Tuskegee is not a school that rests on its laurels; rather, Tuskegee is continuously growing and making new partnerships to better the education of its students. One recent example includes a 2019 partnership with the Ross University School of Medicine, an agreement intended to address diversity shortages in the field of medicine. 

Additionally, Tuskegee is home to an innovative center, the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care. This institution is, according to Wikipedia, “devoted to engaging the sciences, humanities, law and religious faiths in the exploration of the core moral issues which underlie research and medical treatment of African Americans and other under-served people.”

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (Cheyney, PA)

Founded in 1837, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania is the oldest HBCU in the entire country. In its most recent ranking 2021 ranking, US News recently ranked Cheyney among the top 25 public liberal arts colleges in the country.

Cheyney has some of the most remarkable facilities of any liberal arts college in the country. One such facility is the 36,000 square foot Marian Anderson Music Center, complete with an auditorium, practice rooms, and state-of-the-art acoustics. This music center has hosted many of the world’s greatest performers throughout its storied 50-year history.

Cheyney has several programs that are among the most desirable at any HBCU or Blacky Ivy League. They include the Bachelors in Business Administration, which has advanced classes in operations, marketing, accounting, and more. 

Alumni of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania Ed Bradley, the beloved CBS correspondent on the television show “60 Minutes,” Bayard Rustin, a civil rights activist, and Pedro Rivera, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education.

Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD)

Morgan State University
Stephreef, Morgan State University – EARL S. RICHARDSON LIBRARY, CC BY-SA 3.0

The largest HBCU in Maryland, Morgan State is in the top 10% of schools nationwide when it comes to its commitment to research expenditure. For its profound research and development efforts, Morgan State is classified as an “R2: Doctoral University with High Research Activity” by the prestigious Carnegie Classification.

Although Morgan State is a public university in Maryland, approximately 30% of its student body actually comes from out of state. In fact, Morgan State has quite an international profile, with students hailing from Kuwait, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia.

Among the many majors at Morgan State, one particularly outstanding program is in engineering. Home to Morgan State’s School of Engineering is an exceptional 35,000 square foot facility complete with an unprecedented 16 teaching laboratories and five research laboratories. In 2015, Morgan State provided Maryland with more than two-thirds of its African-American Civil Engineers. 

Music is another outstanding major at Morgan State, home to one of the nation’s very best collegiate choirs. Aptly called the Morgan State University Choir, this reputed ensemble has performed throughout The Bahamas, Virgin Islands, and even as far away as Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Lincoln University (Chester County, PA)

Lincoln University
Smallbones, Student Union Lincoln U PA, CC0 1.0

A prestigious public university based near Oxford, Pennsylvania, Lincoln University was established in 1854, becoming the nation’s very first degree-granting HBCU. In its 2021 ranking, US News ranked Lincoln University among the top 20 HBCUs in the entire country.

Lincoln University may just have one of the most impressive study abroad programs of any HBCU in the entire country. Through their International and Study Abroad programs, students have participated in Service Learning Projects in Ecuador, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Russia, and over a dozen more countries.

Diversity is at the heart of the Lincoln University experience. Although most of its students are African American, the school has accepted students of all races and nationalities. Interestingly, 66% of the student population at Lincoln University is female.

Alumni of Lincoln University include significant Supreme Court judge Thurgood Marshall, Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, and Medal of Honor recipient Christian Fleetwood.

In 2020, during her transformational donation campaign, Mackenzie Scott gave $20 million to Lincoln University, the largest single gift in the university’s history. 

Dillard University (New Orleans, LA)

Dillard University
Infrogmation of New Orleans, DillardFrontJan06, CC BY 2.5

Founded in 1869, Dillard is a prestigious liberal arts institution located in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dillard is a religious institution affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church. The campus utilizes a semester-based academic calendar and has an overall acceptance rate of about 60%.

Dillard is accredited by the Academic Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC). These accredited professions include accounting, Business Administration, Chemistry, Mathematics, Financial Economics, Computer Science, Political Science, Nursing, Physics, Biology, and Mass Communications.

The institution molded influential people in America, such as Ruth Simmons, an academic administrator & President of Prairie View A&M University. Garrett Isaac Morris is also an alumnus of Dillard, a well-known American comedian, singer, and actor.

Fisk University (Nashville, TN)

Fisk University
Paulmcdonald, Cravath Hall (Fisk University), CC BY-SA 4.0

Founded in 1866 in Nashville, Tennessee, Fisk University is a school frequently dubbed a Black Ivy.

In 2004, the institution started the Fisk-Vanderbilt bridge program to help underrepresented groups access Doctorate programs. Among the original funders of this program included the likes of NASA as well as the National Science Foundation. 

In 2021, U.S. News and World Report ranked the institution as the 10th among 79 HBCUs in the U.S. The school also ranked in other US News lists, including “most innovative schools” and “top performers on social mobility.” 

The school has graduated many highly influential people, including Constance Baker Motley, the first American woman elected to the New York State Senate, and Marion Barry, former mayor of Washington DC.

Hampton University (Hampton, VA)

Hampton University
Douglas W. Reynolds, HAMPTON UNIVERSITY Monroe Memorial Church, CC BY-SA 4.0

Founded by American Missionary Association leaders, Hampton University is a private Black Ivy League school located in Hampton, Virginia. The school was created to provide education for freedmen after the American Civil War in 1868. 

The institution is the home of the oldest museum of African culture in the U.S., the appropriately named Hampton University Museum. Founded in 1868, this seminal institution houses over 9,000 objects representing global culture, including ethnic art and artifacts.

In July 2020, MacKenzie Scott, a philanthropist and former wife of Jeff Bezos, donated $30 million to Hampton, the single largest gift to the institution in its history.

As of 2020, the school is offering 50 baccalaureate programs, seven doctoral programs, 26 master’s programs, two professional programs, and ten certificate programs.