What is the Oldest HBCU in the United States?

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been instrumental in educating African Americans and other minorities who faced discrimination in traditional institutions of higher education. Many of these institutions have a rich history and have produced notable alumni who have made significant contributions to American society.

The oldest HBCU in the United States is Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. It was established in 1837 as the Institute for Colored Youth (ICY) in Philadelphia by Richard Humphreys, a Quaker philanthropist. The ICY was the first institution of higher education for African Americans in the United States. The institution was established to educate young black men and women in teaching and the mechanical trades.

In its early years, the ICY faced challenges due to racial discrimination and a lack of funding. The institution relocated several times before settling in Cheyney, a rural town outside of Philadelphia. In 1913, the institution was renamed Cheyney Training School for Teachers, and in 1921, it became Cheyney State Teachers College, offering four-year degree programs.

Cheyney University has a long and proud history of producing influential alumni, including leaders in education, politics, and civil rights. Notable alumni include the first African American mayor of Washington, D.C., Walter Washington, civil rights activist Robert Traynham, and Congressman Robert Brady.

In recent years, Cheyney University has faced financial challenges and accreditation issues. In 2017, the university was placed on probation by its accrediting agency due to financial instability and decreasing enrollment. However, the institution has been working to address these issues and maintain its historic status as the oldest HBCU in the country.

Cheyney University’s history reflects the struggles and achievements of African Americans in their pursuit of higher education. Despite the challenges it has faced, the institution remains a testament to the resilience and perseverance of the African American community. Today, Cheyney University continues to uphold its mission of providing high-quality education to its students, many of whom are first-generation college students and come from underrepresented backgrounds. Its legacy serves as an inspiration to other HBCUs and institutions of higher education across the country. 

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