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Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Marching to the beat of Freedom

By Sarajanee Davis, N.C. Government & Heritage Library, 2019

Photograph of a saxophone player in the Fayetteville State University Marching band, ca. 1980. From the yearbook the "Fayettevillian," 1980. Used courtesy of Fayetteville University and the N.C. Digital Heritage Center.Have you ever heard the term HBCU?

It stands for Historically Black College and University. They are schools that opened to teach African American students beginningin the 1800s. In the 1800s most colleges and universities HBCUs started as schools where students learned a trade or trained to be teachers. These schools also played an important role in the fight for racial justice.

In total, there are 107 HBCU’s in the United States. North Carolina has been home to 12 HBCUs, and 11 are still open today. Shaw University in Raleigh is the oldest in the South. HBCUs in North Carolina are well-known for their contributions to social justice movements. Students from Bennett College and North Carolina A&T in Greensboro launched the sit-in movement at the Greensboro Woolworth lunch counter in 1960. This movement helped bring an end to racial segregation at lunch counters. Many HBCU students also participated in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. They partnered with students from nearby Black high schools tolaunch local protests. Their protests helped make North Carolina more equal for all people.

HBCUs continue to help African Americans today. One way is through music, especially with their marching bands. Marching bands entertain and show the value of hard work. Fayetteville State University’s band, “The Marching Bronco Express" works with younger musicians. And their performances bring people together.

What issues do you think are important to students today? What instrument would you want to play in a marching band?  



Click here for an interactive timeline of the history of North Carolina's HBCUs

Click on the images below for NCpedia articles on North Carolina's HBCUs

Shaw UniversityFayetteville State UniversityBarber-Scotia CollegeJohnson C. SmithSt. Augustine's UniversityBennett CollegeLivingstone CollegeKittrell CollegeNorth Carolina A&T State UniversityElizabeth City State CollegeWinston-Salem State UniversityNorth Carolina Central University


No author listed. “Bennett’s Sit-in Story.” Bennett College Journalism & Media Studies Department. (Accessed November 22, 2019). 

“HBCU Listing.” The Hundred-Seven. (Accessed November 22, 2019). 

Kendi, Ibram. The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965-1972 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). 

Lovett, Bobby. America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities: A Narrative History, 1837-2009 (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2015). 

Additional Resources 

Alston, Christine and Agan, Kelly. “North Carolina Historically Black Colleges and Universities Timeline.” NC Pedia. 2016

No author. “North Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).” NC Pedia. 

Shaw University: The First Historically Black University in the South:

Sit In Movement Resources. International Civil Rights Center & Museum.

Images of North Carolina HBCU Marching Bands:

“Bennett Bells and NCA&T Aggies walk the picket lines together.” Photograph. Bennett College Journalism & Media Studies Department (Accessed November 22, 2019).

“Estey Hall, Shaw University, Raleigh, NC c. 1873.” Photograph. From the General Negative Collection, North Carolina State Archives, call #N.68.10.44.

“The Fayetteville State Marching Bronco Express.” Photograph. The Undefeated.

Image Credits:

Fayetteville State University. The Fayettevillian. 1980.