February 20, 2024

The History of HBCUs and their contribution to Mississippi

Mary Apel

For over 180 years, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played a pivotal role in shaping the educational landscape of the United States. These institutions, established primarily in the aftermath of the Civil War, have been instrumental in providing opportunities for black students to receive higher education.

The history of HBCUs dates back to the early 19th century when the first institution, Cheyney University, was established in 1837 in Pennsylvania. Since then, these colleges and universities have been crucial in nurturing leaders, scholars, and professionals across various fields.

Mississippi, known for its deep roots in African American history, hosts a number of distinguished HBCUs. Among them are Alcorn State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Tougaloo and Rust College. Each institution carries a unique legacy and history of its founding.

Alcorn State University, the oldest public historically black land-grant institution in the United States, was founded in 1871. Established as a result of the first legislation in the United States that allowed for the establishment of a land-grant institution for African Americans, Alcorn State University continues to serve as a beacon of academic excellence and community engagement.

Alcorn State University serves as a valuable economic engine in its community, generating a total economic impact of $146 million.
The university creates 1,534 jobs in its local and regional economies, with each $1 million spent resulting in 12 jobs.

Jackson State University, founded in 1877, stands as a prominent HBCU in Mississippi, renowned for its contributions to research and its commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment. The university has been a cornerstone of higher education for African American students in the state. JSU offers more than 150 courses of study including 24 graduate majors, eight graduate degrees and our first doctoral degree, the Doctor of Science in Emergency Management, as well as more than 35 completely online programs.

Jackson State University generates a total economic impact of $418 million for local and regional economies. The university creates 3,818 jobs, with 1,470 on-campus and 2,348 off-campus positions. Each $1 million spent by the university and its students creates 14 jobs and enhances economic prosperity in the region.

Most recently in the news, JSU’s Sonic Boom of the South performed to millions of viewers around the world during the Super Bowl’s halftime show!

Mississippi Valley State University, established in 1950, emerged as a response to the growing need for accessible higher education for African Americans in the Mississippi Delta region. The university has since grown to become a hub for academic advancement and cultural enrichment. Mississippi Valley State University generates $83 million in total economic impact for its local and regional economies. The university creates 965 jobs, with 546 on-campus and 419 off-campus jobs.

Rust College, the oldest historically black college in Mississippi, was founded in 1866, shortly after the Civil War. With a rich history rooted in the Methodist tradition, Rust College has been dedicated to empowering students through education and community involvement. The college creates 349 jobs, with 188 on-campus and 161 off-campus positions.
Each $1 million spent by Rust College and its students results in the creation of 17 jobs.

According to Tougaloo’s website, “Tougaloo College is a private, coeducational, historically black four-year liberal arts, church-related, but not a church-controlled institution. It sits on 500 acres of land on West County Line Road on the northern edge of Jackson, Mississippi. In Good Biblical Style, the Amistad, the famous court case that freed Africans who were accused of mutiny after they killed a part of the captor crew of the slave ship Amistad and took over the vessel, begat the American Missionary Association. The American Missionary Association begat Tougaloo College and her five sister institutions.

In 1869, the American Missionary Association of New York purchased five hundred acres of land from John Boddie, owner of the Boddie Plantation, to establish a school for the training of young people “irrespective of religious tenets and conducted on the most liberal principles for the benefit of our citizens in general.” The Mississippi State Legislature granted the institution a charter under Tougaloo University in 1871. The Normal Department was recognized as a teacher training school until 1892, at which time the College ceased to receive aid from the state. Courses for college credit were first offered in 1897, and in 1901, the first Bachelor of Arts degree was awarded to Traverse S. Crawford. In 1916, Tougaloo University’s name was changed to Tougaloo College.”

In the surrounding areas, HBCUs such as Tennessee State University, located in Nashville, Tennessee, and Southern University and A&M College, situated in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, have also left an indelible mark on the educational landscape, contributing significantly to the advancement of both African American students and the communities at large.

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