The Black Ivy League

February 17, 2023
By AdmissionSight

The Black Ivy League

The Black Ivy League

Black Ivy League colleges and universities are historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States that primarily enroll African American students. These schools were initially constructed exclusively for African-American students.

Since the 1960s, these institutions have actively recruited black mentors, who now serve in executive capacities at a variety of schools. Presidents, professors, head athletic coaches, and deans serve as mentors. Students attended these schools in the late 20th century to acquire skills and learn trades. These institutions prioritized academic excellence for African-Americans.

Fisk University was the first HBCU to establish a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1952. Membership in Kappa signifies that a student is among the top college graduates in the humanities and social sciences. Morehouse has produced the most Rhodes scholars in the history of HBCUs, while Howard has produced the most black doctorates.

Since 1999, many HBCUs have launched initiatives where families can access financial aid. The objective of the initiative is to make higher education more affordable for all students. In addition, these institutions offer both undergraduate and graduate professional programs.

Which Ivy League has the most black students?

Black Ivy League aside, which Ivy League has the most black students? Well, for nine consecutive years, Columbia University had the highest percentage of black first-year students among the nation’s most prestigious universities.

A year ago, Columbia fell to second place, behind Princeton. This year, however, Columbia is once again on top, with 17.5 percent of its entering class being black. This is the highest percentage ever recorded among the nation’s top research universities.

This year, Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island is ranked fourth, up from ninth last year. The percentage of black students in Brown’s incoming class increased from 11.8 percent to 14.4 percent.

In the past decade, the Ivy League schools have made remarkable progress in admitting black students. In 2006, 9.6 percent of Columbia University’s first-year students were African-American. If we assume that Harvard’s incoming class is at least 10 percent black, then seven of the eight Ivy League schools have 10 percent or higher black incoming classes this year.

Two years ago, there were only six African American students in the California Institute of Technology’s entering class. They represented 2.5% of the freshman class. This year, there are 12 black students, comprising 4.4% of the freshman class.

HBCU Ivy League schools

HCBU Ivy League schools, or The Black Ivy League, are neither organized as an official group nor affiliated with the NCAA Ivy League sports conference.

While there is no definitive source for the membership of the Black Ivy League, certain names appear more frequently than others. Today, we delve deeply into ten exceptional schools that are often referred to as “Black Ivy League” institutions.

Howard University (Washington, DC.)

Washington, DC’s Howard University is a private Black Ivy League institution that offers undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. With over 120 academic programs, Howard is one of the most academically diverse HBCUs.

The Carnegie Classification of Institutions categorizes Howard University as an “R2 – High Research Activity” institution due to the university’s outstanding commitment to research. This designation is given to less than 5% of the nation’s schools.

Howard University signage

In his May 2016 commencement address at the institution, President Obama encouraged the graduates to be advocates for racial equality. In July 2020, four years later, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott gave $40 million to Howard University. This is the largest gift in Howard’s long and illustrious history.

Among the school’s notable professors are Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, blood shipment pioneer Charles Drew, and prominent civil rights attorney Charles Hamilton Houston. Among the alumni of Howard University is the current Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris.

Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA)

Morehouse College is not only the largest liberal arts college for men in the United States, but also one of the most prestigious small colleges in the country. There are eleven Fulbright Scholars, five Rhodes Scholars, and five Marshall Scholars among the alumni.

Among the most accomplished and influential individuals in the world are a number of Morehouse’s alumni. Martin Luther King Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Howard Thurman, and Spike Lee are among them.

Morehouse is home to the “King Collection,” a 10,000-item collection of original documents written by the civil rights leader himself. The Library of Congress estimated that this collection was worth well over $20 million.

Spelman College (Atlanta, GA)

Spelman College is a liberal arts institution for black women and a member of the Atlanta University Center, a consortium of higher education institutions. This is one of the most prestigious colleges in the Black Ivy League. In 1881, Spelman was founded as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, and in 1924, it was granted a college charter. It is the oldest liberal arts college for black women.

An African American female student inside a campus looking happy

At Spelman College, student life and activities are abundant, with something for every student on campus. In addition to a literary magazine, a student newspaper, a number of religious organizations, and more than a dozen honor societies, the school offers a variety of extracurricular activities.

Spelman’s Museum of Fine Art is a unique institution. According to Spelman College, this museum is the only one in the world dedicated to “art by and about women of the African Diaspora.” Each semester, the Museum of Fine Art at Spelman College presents new and previous exhibitions by contemporary black artists. There are works by Mickalene Thomas, Amy Sherald, and Reneé Stout, among others.

Tuskegee University (Tuskegee, AL)

Tuskegee University, a private Black Ivy League institution in Tuskegee, Alabama, was formerly the home of the scientist and longtime professor George Washington Carver. On April 2, 1966, the college became the first historically black college or university to be designated a National Historic Landmark.

Tuskegee is widely regarded as one of the nation’s most prestigious HBCUs. In its most recent ranking for 2021, US News ranked Tuskegee fourth out of 79 HBCUs nationwide. In addition, Washington Monthly’s most recent ranking of national universities placed Tuskegee in the top 25 percent of all schools in the United States.

a building hall in Tuskegee University

Tuskegee is not a school that rests on its laurels; rather, it is continually expanding and forming new partnerships to improve its students’ education. A 2019 partnership with the Ross University School of Medicine to address diversity shortages in the medical field is a recent example.

In addition, Tuskegee is home to the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care, an innovative center.

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (Cheyney, PA)

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, founded in 1837, is the oldest historically black college or university in the entire United States. US News ranked Cheyney among the top 25 public liberal arts colleges in the country in its most recent 2021 ranking.

Cheyney has some of the most impressive facilities of any liberal arts institution in the United States. The Marian Anderson Music Center, which is 36,000 square feet and includes an auditorium, practice rooms, and state-of-the-art acoustics, is one such facility. In its 50-year history, this music center has hosted many of the world’s greatest performers.

aerial view of Cheyney University

Several programs at Cheyney are among the most desirable at any HBCU or Black Ivy League institution. The Bachelor of Business Administration includes advanced courses in operations, marketing, and accounting, among others.

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania alumni Ed Bradley, the esteemed correspondent for “60 Minutes” on CBS, Bayard Rustin, a civil rights activist, and Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania’s secretary of education, were interviewed.

Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD)

Morgan State, the largest HBCU in Maryland, ranks among the top 10 percent of colleges and universities in the country in terms of its commitment to research expenditure. Morgan State is classified as an “R2: Doctoral University with High Research Activity” by the prestigious Carnegie Classification due to its extensive research and development efforts.

Although Morgan State is a public institution in Maryland, approximately 30 percent of its student body is comprised of out-of-state students. Students from Kuwait, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia attend Morgan State, which has a fairly international reputation.

African American students talking

Among the many majors offered at Morgan State, the engineering program stands out. The School of Engineering at Morgan State is housed in a 35,000-square-foot building with an unprecedented 16 teaching laboratories and five research laboratories. In 2015, Morgan State produced over two-thirds of Maryland’s African-American civil engineers.

Morgan State is home to one of the nation’s finest collegiate choirs, making music a second outstanding major. Known as the Morgan State University Choir, this illustrious group has performed in The Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, and even Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Lincoln University (Chester County, PA)

Lincoln University, a prestigious public university located near Oxford, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1854 as the nation’s first degree-granting HBCU. In its 2021 ranking, US News placed Lincoln University among the nation’s top 20 HBCUs.

Lincoln University may have one of the country’s most impressive study abroad programs among the black ivy league. Students have participated in service learning projects in Ecuador, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Russia, and over a dozen other countries through their international and study abroad programs.

African American students in a library

The core of the Lincoln University experience is diversity. The school has accepted students of all races and nationalities, although the majority of its students are African-American. Interestingly, 66% of Lincoln University’s student body is female.

The notable Supreme Court judge Thurgood Marshall, the Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, and  Medal of Honor recipient Christian Fleetwood are all alumni of Lincoln University.

Mackenzie Scott gave $20 million to Lincoln University in 2020, the largest single donation in the institution’s history, as part of her transformational donation campaign.

Dillard University (New Orleans, LA)

Dillard is a prestigious liberal arts institution founded in 1869 and located in New Orleans, Louisiana. The United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church is affiliated with Dillard University. The campus operates on a semester-based academic calendar and has an acceptance rate of approximately 60%.

Dillard is accredited by the Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Academic Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) (SACSCOC).

Accounting, Business Administration, Chemistry, Mathematics, Financial Economics, Computer Science, Political Science, Nursing, Physics, Biology, and Mass Communications are among these accredited professions.

The institution shaped influential Americans, such as academic administrators and Prairie View A&M University President Ruth Simmons. Garrett Isaac Morris, a well-known American comedian, singer, and actor, is also a Dillard graduate.

Fisk University (Nashville, TN)

Fisk University, founded in 1866 in Nashville, Tennessee, is frequently referred to as one of the Black Ivy League.

In 2004, the institution initiated the Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program to facilitate access to Doctoral programs for underrepresented groups. NASA and the National Science Foundation were among the original funders of this program.

a building in Fisk University

U.S. News and World Report ranked the institution tenth among the 79 HBCUs in the United States in 2021. The institution also appeared on other US News lists, such as “most innovative schools” and “top performers on social mobility.”

The school’s alumni include Constance Baker Motley, the first American woman to be elected to the New York State Senate, and Marion Barry, the former mayor of Washington, DC.

Hampton University (Hampton, VA)

Hampton University is a private Black Ivy League institution founded by leaders of the American Missionary Association and located in Hampton, Virginia. After the American Civil War in 1868, the school was established to provide education to freedmen.

The institution houses the oldest museum of African culture in the United States, the Hampton University Museum. This pioneering institution, founded in 1868, houses more than 9,000 objects representing global culture, including ethnic art and artifacts.

two african american students talking

MacKenzie Scott, philanthropist, and ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, donated $30 million to Hampton University in July 2020, the largest gift in the institution’s history.

As of the year 2020, the institution offers 50 baccalaureate programs, seven doctoral programs, 26 master’s programs, two professional programs, and ten certificate programs.

Top HBCU Ivy League

Let’s move on to the top HBCU Ivy League. As of today, Spelman University is the most distinguished Black Ivy League university in the United States. This is followed by Howard University and Hampton University.

Spelman College is ranked first among historically black colleges and universities in the United States and is the leading Black Ivy League institution. They only accept applications from female applicants. They offer 31 majors, 35 bachelor’s degrees, and 18 study areas.

Biological and Biomedical Sciences, English, Physical Science, Psychology, and Social Sciences are their most popular majors.

Spelman College has a 53% acceptance rate, which is highly competitive. Students with SAT scores between 1050 and 1200 or ACT scores between 20 and 25 have been accepted.

Howard University is a leader in STEM fields, with many students earning doctorates in science and engineering. They offer over 140 study areas across 13 colleges and universities.

35% is a very competitive acceptance rate at Howard University. The average SAT score for 2025 graduates was 1184 and the average ACT score was 24.

Hampton University offers over seventy bachelor’s degrees and has over three thousand students studying in fields such as Liberal Arts, Science, Business, and Engineering.

Hampton University has a very competitive acceptance rate of 36%.

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