Spotlight on: HBCUs Where Faith Matters 

When the majority of HBCUs were founded they were created to develop group of men and women who would provide the necessary leadership to enable African-Americans to succeed in a post-slavery, yet still segregated America.  Among that leadership included teachers and ministers- enlightening the intellect and the soul.  To that end most HBCUs were founded with the support of church and missionary organizations.  This follows the establishment of most of the country's earliest colleges which were also established by various denominations.  While many colleges have moved away from having a direct connetion to a religious organization and have become more secular in nature, others continue to maintain a strong Christian identity-stressed in their daily activities, routines, celebrations and curricula.  

There are currently at least 5 schools of theology or Bible colleges in the US that can claim status as Historically Black: Birmingham Easonian, Hood Theological Seminary, Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), Johnson C. Smith Seminary and Payne Theological Seminary. Only one, ITC, is officially recognized as an HBCU by the US Department of Education. They are not included on the list because they only offer academic programs in areas of religious study.

Here are some of the HBCUs that continue to maintain a strong emphasis on faith.  

Colleges are listed alphabetically.  

Update: After this feature was initially published, the trustees of Concordia College Alabama announced that it would close at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.


American Baptist College
(Nashville, Tennessee)

American Baptist College was established by representatives of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. and the Southern Baptist Convention as the American Baptist Theological Seminary.  The college currently proclaims that it remains "firmly rooted in its historic purpose to promote higher education through a Christ-centered vision of the world."  To this end there are weekly mandatory chapel services on Tuesdays.  Campus activities include a Christian fraternity.  ABC also sponsors the annual Garnett-Nabrit Lecture Series bringing in religious scholars and preachers to address issues relevant for the modern church and its leaders.

Mission statement:  "...educating, graduating and preparing a predominantly African-American student population for Christian leadership, service and social justice in the world."

Arkansas Baptist College
(Little Rock, Arkansas)

Arkansas Baptist College works to "[prepare] students for a life of service grounded in academic scholarship, the liberal arts tradition, social responsibility, Christian development and preparation for employment in a global community."  To reach this goal a regularly scheduled "Empowerment Hour" is held throughout the year and is a requirement for all students.  There is a Religious and Spiritual Life Council that offers activities for small groups and sponsors retreats, workshops and conferences.  Local and global mission trips are organized in partnership with churches and other organizations. 

Bethune-Cookman University
(Daytona Beach, Florida)

Named, in part, for a Methodist minister (Rev. Alfred Cookman) Bethune-Cookman University offers students numerous opportunities to engage in activities that highlight their Christian faith including a Christian fraternity and sorority; God’s Gift, a music-based ministry and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  The university employs an executive chaplain and a second chaplain to respond to the spiritual needs of the campus community. The department develops and sponsors programs to address religious questions and to promote the religious heritage of B-CU.  Bethune-Cookman holds weekly worship services every Wednesday morning, midweek noon day prayer and weekly Bible studies in residence halls.

“I leave you faith. Faith is the first factor in a life devoted to service. Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible”- from the Last Will and Testament fo B-CU founder, Mary McLeod Bethune
(affiliated with: United Methodist Church)

Clinton College
(Rock Hill, South Carolina)

Clinton College works to offer an environment that   promotes intellectual growth as well as positive moral, ethical, and spiritual values. The school considers itself to be proud a Christian College that prepares men and women to be good stewards of society.   It has a goal to “design and implement an educational program that will help all students lead moral, spiritual and productive lives.” Founded in the late 19th century, Clinton recently added two bachelor's degree programs including one in religious studies.  
(affiliated with: African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church)

Concordia College Alabama
(Selma, Alabama)

The only Lutheran affiliated HBCU, Concordia College Alabama is committed to the spiritual development of the student body.  Of its 7 Core Values, all but 1 focus on character and they include being Christ-centered, promoting a kindom-focused global ministry and encouraging students to lead a life of service.  CCA holds chapel service Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11; no classes are held, nor are any offices open at this time.  Weekly afternoon and evening opportunities for Bible study are available.  There is also a student-led Spriritual Life team, supervised by the Campus Pastor, that leads Bible studies, conducts student-led worship services, and participates in service projects within the community.
Mission: "[To prepare] students through a Christ-centered education for lives of responsible service in the Church, the community and the world.”

Lane College
(Jackson, Tennessee)

Though founded by CME Bishop Isaac Lane, Lane College does not attempt to impose any specific denominational view. However, Lane is concerned about the spiritual, social, and ethical development of students.  Assembly/Chapel is held every Wednesday at 11:00 a.m.  Students, faculty, staff and administrators are encouraged to participate in the hour-long program of spiritual uplift.  All students are required to attend a minimum of ten College Assembly/Chapel services each semester.  Religious Emphasis Week is observed every year.  Lane's Office of Religious Life works to maintain the college's longstanding religious heritage.

Oakwood University
(Huntsville, Alabama)

Oakwood is the only HBCU affiliated with the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and follows its practices including honoring the Sabbbath (sunset Friday to Saturday) and a vegetarian-only cafeteria.   While one does not have to be a member of the SDA church to attend the college, students do have to adhere to certain practices including participation in mandatory weekly chapel service and following a code of decorum and lifestyle with a focus on modesty. The university participates in annual local, national and international mission trips. The Oakwood University mission is stated in seven general goals; the first is an emphasis on spiritual vitality.  All students are encouraged to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and to engagie in some of the campus ministry programs. 

Paine College
(Augusta, Georgia)

Paine College  offers students a wide variety of religious activities.  There is an annual community prayer breakfast.  The Wesley Fellowship (a United Methodist Campus Ministry) meets once a week for praise and worship, prayer and Bible Study and to offer students the opportunity to participate in several spiritual retreats each year.  There are mandatory Assembly Programs that include scripture and prayer.   The Campus Pastor and staff establish programs to help with students' spiritual development and "aid students in making that journey from where they are as freshmen to what they are capable of becoming as a child of God. " 
(affiliated with CME and United Methodist churches)

Paul Quinn College
(Dallas, Texas)

At Paul Quinn it is expected that students and employees, "affirm the Biblical and theological foundations of the African Methodist Episcopal Church" and are  committed to fulfilling the related mission and philosophy of education. These beliefs are directly connect to the beliefs found in the Articles of Religion, the Standard Sermons of John Wesley, and the Apostle’s Creed.  The college strives to "provide a quality, faith-based education that addresses the academic, social, and Christian development of students and prepares them to be servant-leaders and agents of change in the global marketplace."   Students are required to attend chapel each Friday.  The service is created to be a source of inspiration for the entire campus.
(affilitated with: AME Church)

Philander Smith College
(Little Rock, Arkansas)

PSC is "committed to foster an environment supportive of spiritual and faith based formation." To meet this committment the college sponsors extensive religious life programming activities like Social Justice Mission Project and the Ministers Alliance. The college also sponsors 2 faith-based institutes. Each Thursday at 11 student-led Worship and Word Chapel is held.   The  Office of Religious Life and Campus Culture works to make certain knowledge and understanding of Christian faith is an integral part of the campus culture. 
(affiliated with: United Methodist Church)

Selma University 
(Selma, Alabama)

At Selma University, "Christian service is not an extra-curricular activity, but an essential part of the total training program."  As a Christian College, Selma strives to "stimulate students spiritually, intellectually and socially" in order to prepare students to be servant leaders throughout the world.   Selma is a Bible college where 40% of all bachelor's and graduate degrees are focused on religious studies. It is a requirement for every student, regardless of academic major, to be involved in an aspect of ministry.  There are a variety of ministry options ranging from singing in the choir, to teaching Sunday School or participation in evangelic ministries. 
(affilitated with : Alabama State Missionary Convention) 

Simmons College of Kentucky
(Louisville, Kentucky)

Most recently known as Simmons Bible College, the college has returned to its orginal mission of providing a traditional college education, while still preparing Christians for the ministry.  Through the leadership of President Kevin Cosby, who is also pastor of Louisville's St. Stephen Church, one of the largest in country, the school has established educational partnerships with the Full Gospel Baptist Convention and the National Baptist Convention of America.   Simmons maintains accreditation through The Association for Biblical Higher Education and offers students the opportunity to earn both associate's and bachelor's degrees in religious studies. 

Southwestern Christian College
(Terrell, Texas)

Southwestern Christian College proclaims itself to be "A Liberal Arts College offering a Christian education in a Christian
environment through a Bible-centered curriculum"
The college was founded and sponsored by members of Churches of Christ-in fact, the majority of black ministers within the denomination have a direct connection to the college.   A goal of the college is to prepare students who are "well rooted and grounded in the Word of God." All fulltime students must
register for and regularly attend a Bible course each semester.  

Virginia Union University
(Richmond, Virginia)

Virginia Union's history began when the American Baptist Home Mission Society proposed a National Theological Institute in order to train freedmen who wished to become Baptist ministers.  The university is a result of the mergers of Richmond Theological Institute and Wayland Seminary.  Chapel is held every Thursday and students can earn credits for attending.  
Its school of theology is one of most respected in nation. Pastors Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., Dr. Samuel Dewitt Proctor, and Bishop Leontine Kelly are all alumni of the university.   
Mission statement:  "Virginia Union University is nourished by its African American and Christian heritage and energized by a commitment to excellence and diversity."

Wiley College
(Marshall, Texas)

Named after Methodist Episcopal Bishop Isaac Wiley, the 1st presidents  of Wiley College were ministers.  Wiley College considers itself to be "a community of learning and faith." Each Tuesday weekly chapel service is held with pastors from the community, region, and the nation as featured speakers.  The college features "Wiley Days", a musical praise celebration and partnership with churches and communities that support the mission of Wiley College and an annual Ethical Student Leadership Conference.  Additionally, all students must complete  2 courses in religion.
(Affiliated with the United Methodist Church)     

Published: January 2018

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