Education: Historically Black Colleges and Universities


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The Bennett College Bell

The Bennett College Bell

Several historically black colleges and universities opened their doors in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Historically black colleges in the South that admitted women included Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina; Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia; and Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina.

"I finished Benedict in 1921"
- Modjeska Simkins

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Modjeska Simkins attended Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, from first grade all the way through college. In her interview, she explains that the college was originally chartered to train recently emancipated slaves and their children to become teachers and preachers. Simkins graduated from the college in 1921 with a license to teach school and a bachelor of arts degree. She went on to teach ancient and medieval history at Benedict for one year before moving on to work in public schools. In her interview, she credited her father for ensuring that all of his children got an education.

"A painful decision for me"
- Pauli Murray

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While many African-Americans attended historically black colleges, some expressed a desire to attend integrated colleges. Pauli Murray described not wanting to attend a historically black university, Wilberforce University, despite being offered a scholarship to attend. Murray explained that, being a descendant of an interracial marriage, she was particularly affected by segregation because of the split in her own family. For this reason, she felt strongly about not attending a segregated school. She chose instead to attend the racially integrated Hunter College in New York City.