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Why are HBCUs important? Understanding their contributions to American Science, Arts, and Culture

Author: TeamingPro Staff

HBCUs – Historically Black Colleges and Universities – are cornerstones of American society, even though many people and business owners fail to recognize their significance. Luckily, their importance isn’t overlooked by the government.

Case in point, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFFCP) has minority education initiatives for supporting “excellence in minority education” and equal employment opportunities. There was even a recent executive order for Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities. To a business-minded individual, they might smell an opportunity here – a way to contribute to a growing zeal in a way that’s both monetarily and emotionally fulfilling.

To help you understand how your business might be able to benefit – directly or indirectly – from the initiatives promoting HBCUs, let’s take a look at the appeal of growing HBCUs from the angle of their contributions to the sciences, arts, and culture.

HBCU Contributions to Science

In 2000, 40% of all African Americans graduating with bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields (physics, chemistry, astronomy, environment sciences, and mathematics) attended a HBCU. This percentage seems to have been maintained throughout the years, while the number of African Americans graduating with bachelor’s degrees in all STEM fields continues to increase. When paired with decreasing birth rates and lower numbers of high school graduates when compared to other ethnic groups, the overall picture shows that a greater percentage of the African-American population is college educated – and just under half of those individuals are attending a HBCU.

It could be argued that the difference in atmosphere between a HBCU and a traditional college can allow out-of-the-box thinking. George Washington Carver, though self-taught, created over 300 applications for peanuts and was associated with the Tuskegee Institute as a teacher. Lonnie Johnson, a graduate of Tuskegee, went on to become a NASA engineer (though he later found his fame and fortune by inventing the Super Soaker).

Another bonus argument for the differing perspectives found in a HBCU is that, thanks to the government funding and private initiatives they tend to receive, they can offer more affordable pricing, allowing them to cast a wider net for prospective students. In addition to the monetary benefit, it has been noted that HBCUs tend to outperform non-HBCUs when it comes to student experience and college preparedness.

HBCU Contributions to Arts

In the 2021 documentary “Black Art: In the Absence of Light,” Harvard University professor Sarah Elizabeth states that “Without the work of Historically Black Colleges and Universities we wouldn’t have a repository of African-American art that we can draw on.” This is likely in regards to the past discrimination African-Americans and their perspectives, techniques, and lives faced – and by contrast demonstrates the advantage of HBCUs placing their focus in cultivating black artists & talent.

For example, the Hampton University Museum holds African-American art from Harlem Renaissance Artists, and Howard University was the first HBCU to have an art department led and controlled by African-Americans only, allowing them to cultivate their own approach to artwork rather than following the examples set by more traditional predecessors.

There are also notable graduates such as Toni Morrison, Novelist, Editor, and Professor who graduated from Howard University, and singer, song-writer, and producer Lionel Richie, who attended Tuskegee University.

HBCU Contributions to Culture

Part in parcel with a conservation of art is an understanding and evolution of culture through exploring past perspectives. The Andrew W Mellon Foundation understands how archival collections can help shape the future, and thus provides funding to several different HBCU Preservation Projects. Repair, re-housing of materials, and summer internships are just a few of the benefits this initiative offers as the African-American experience from Reconstruction through the Civil Rights Era is preserved to be studied and learned from.

Pop Culture also benefits from HBCUs – Spike Lee, a Morehouse College Graduate, has been an active filmmaker since 1977, winning awards and nominations throughout his career, and even helping immortalize some of his experiences at a HBCU in his early film School Daze.

Investing in HBCUs feeds back into the growth of America as a country, a principle the Government and private individuals have come to understand. But this symbiotic relationship isn’t just limited to HBCUs – it also extends to individuals and businesses.

If your own or work at a minority-owned business, you could benefit from the same mentality that inspires these initiatives to support HBCUs – and the deeper understanding you have of why they exist can help to that end. From there, websites like could enable you to connect with federal opportunities for vendors.

All in all, its important to recognize the positive impact that comes from cultivating an atmosphere of respect and understanding between different perspectives: in the end, everyone wins.

Good luck out there!
- Your friends at TeamingPro.