Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been a key part of Black American history since they were first established in 1837. Some of the United States’ most iconic and recognizable Black figures have come out of the HBCU system, including Langston Hughes, Roberta Flack, and Thurgood Marshall.
New York HBCUs
Interestingly, even though New York City has the highest concentration of African-Americans in the United States, there is only one HBCU present in the state of New York: Medgar Evers College at the City University of New York (CUNY).
But that doesn’t make Medgar Evers College any less valuable of a place to gain your education. In this piece, we’ll outline the college’s history, its academics, its notable faculty and alumni, and what you should know when considering attending.
About the City University of New York (CUNY)
Before we get into Medgar Evers specifically, we need to explain the university it’s a part of, the City University of New York. CUNY is the largest public urban university in the country with 275,000 students and 25 different colleges (one of which is Medgar Evers). It was founded in 1847 as the first free institute of higher education in the US.
Medgar Evers College
As we’ve noted, Medgar Evers is the only HBCU in New York State. It was founded in 1970 in Central Brooklyn.
History of the College
Of all the four-year colleges in the CUNY system, Medgar Evers College is the youngest. Its first conception came out of the community activism of Central Brooklyn residents, who realized in the first half of the 1960s that a local public college would be exceptionally beneficial to the neighborhood.
These first dreamers then garnered a groundswell of support from all sorts of different groups like the NAACP, the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, local politicians, and more. Together, the coalition brought the request to the City of New York’s Board of Higher Education and advocated tirelessly for this to be brought about.
Finally, after much discourse, advocacy, and activism, the college was approved by the board in 1968 with the goal of opening up for the Fall semester in 1969.
After some bureaucratic delays and further discourse, Medgar Evers was finally officially established on July 30, 1970, with the signature of then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller cementing its place.
Medgar Evers’ Life
Amid this process of reflection around the establishment of this college, community members decided to name it after Medgar Evers, a martyr of the Civil Rights Movement.
He was born in Decatur, Mississippi in 1925. Unsurprisingly, he ran up against racism all the time in his childhood. Later in life, he would recall that a family friend of his died from lynching when Evers was merely 12 years old. The murderers hung the dead man’s blood-stained clothes from a fence for well over a year to intimidate other Black people in the community.
Saturday nights were especially bad in the streets of Decatur – gangs of white men would patrol and roam the streets, trying to find a Black person to harass, harm, or perhaps kill.
But Evers was never one to allow himself to succumb to circumstance. He was determined – he would live a significant and fulfilling life, no matter what the white folks said. He dropped out of high school when he was 17 years old to join the army on the European front of World War II.
Even the army was segregated. But Medgar found much better treatment among the French than he had among the Americans – he felt like an equal. He was not alone in this, indeed many Black soldiers didn’t even want to return to the US from France because of this dynamic.
Evers knew he wanted to go back home, but this equal treatment had planted a spark of hope in his heart for the possibility of racial justice in the U.S.
After serving for three years, Evers returned home to finish his high school education and enroll in college. He attended Alcorn College in Mississippi, met his future wife Myrlie Beasley, and studied business administration.
Once he graduated, Medgar and Myrlie transitioned to Mound Bayou, Mississippi. First, he worked in insurance sales, but his heart was hurt by the levels of inequality experienced by the Black population there. So he soon joined the NAACP.
Evers was a force to be reckoned with in the NAACP. He organized local chapters, coordinated boycotts of establishments that refused African-Americans in their bathrooms, and more. The man was an organizational genius, able to form common identities and goals across diverse swaths of a disparate population.
Soon, due to Evers’ organizational skills and the denial of his application to the University of Mississippi Law School, the national leadership of the organization saw his gifts and appointed him the field secretary of Mississippi operations. He was the first to hold this position in the group.
He gained national prominence after moving to Jackson, Mississippi, where he worked towards high-profile merchant boycotts in the first part of the 1960s – just as Medgar Evers College was first under discussion. His name wasn’t a part of these discussions yet, though that would come very shortly.
Due to his high-level position and the prominence of his activism, Evers received several death threats during this time. But he was never deterred, often working as much as twenty hours a day to organize, bring people together, and resist.
In 1963, white supremacists firebombed Medgar and Myrlie Evers’ home. Shortly after that, on June 12, President Kennedy excoriated the violence of white people resisting civil rights. On the night of that speech, Medgar Evers was working late. When he returned, a sniper shot and killed him on the doorstep of his own home.
What Programs Does the College Offer?
There are five different schools at Medgar Evers college: the School of Business, the School of Liberal Arts, the School of Education, the School of Science, Health, & Technology, and the School of Professional & Community Development.
The School of Business
Generally, this school focuses on business-oriented skills with a grounding in liberal arts. This ranges from financial skills like accounting and economics to more common-sense ones like business administration and public administration.
Six departments operate within the School of Business: Accounting, Business Administration, Computer Information Systems, Economics and Finance, Professional Studies, and Public Administration.
The School of Liberal Arts
This school is likely the broadest one at the college, covering all sorts of liberal arts knowledge. There are seven departments within the School of Liberal Arts, including Mass Communication, World Languages and Cultures, Psychology, Philosophy and Religion, Social and Behavioral Sciences, English, and Social Science.
The School of Education
In the School of Education, there are only two academic departments, but those are supplemented by two centers of study. The academic departments are the Multicultural Early Childhood and Elementary Education Department and the Developmental and Special Education department.
In the former, you can study for an Associate in Arts (AA) degree in Teacher Education or a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Childhood Education. If you’re looking to go and teach after graduating from Medgar Evers, these are the degrees you’ll want to look at.
In the Developmental and Special Education department, you can only choose from BA degrees. There, you’ll find the BA Early Childhood Special Education, Birth to 2nd Grade program, and the BA Childhood Special Education, Grade 1-6 program.
As a BA student in either department, you’ll need to choose a content concentration from the following list: English, Mathematics, Science, and Social Sciences. The Developmental and Special Education programs also include a concentration in Psychology.
That department also contains the Center for Cognitive Development, which focuses on researching brain-related developmental disorders and how they impact a child’s learning process.
Additionally, the Ella Baker/Charles Romain Child Development Center operates within the School of Education. There, Medgar Evers students of all schools can access quality child care for their children while attending school. This lifts a significant burden from many students by offering both pre-school and afterschool programs for their children.
The School of Science, Health, & Technology
In this school, you’ll find five academic departments: Chemistry and Environmental Science, Physics and Computer Science, Biology, Nursing, and Mathematics.
Each of these departments offers an Associate of Science (AS) degree with a concentration in the given field, a Bachelors of Science (BS) degree, and a minor. The Nursing Department also offers a Certificate in Practical Nursing program, which is certified and approved through NYSED (the New York State Education Department).
The School of Professional & Community Development
This school does not appear to offer any degree-seeking programs, but it contains several programs for youth as well as several research and advocacy centers that do not fit neatly in other schools.
There are five centers to be found here: the Center for Black Literature, the DuBois Bunche Center for Public Policy, the Center for Law & Social Justice, CUNY Citizenship Now, and the Caribbean Research Center.
The Center for Black Literature was founded by Dr. Brenda Greene in 2002 to enrich and expand broad public understanding and enjoyment of the literary fruits of Black culture, whether on the continent of Africa or within the African diaspora. The center has a multitude of strategies for accomplishing this – conferences, reading series, student blogs, and more.
The DuBois Bunche Center for Public Policy is inspired by its two namesakes – W.E.B. DuBois and Ralph Johnson Bunche – to be a place that cultivates scholar activism and empowers the creation of innovatively progressive responses to the problems encountered by U.S. urban communities.
The Center for Law & Social Justice is one of the advocacy centers – here, employees and academics offer legal advice, general community training, and research specializing in issues of racial injustice.
CUNY Citizenship Now is also known as the Immigration Center. There, immigrants in the city can find advice and services on legal immigration free of charge.
Finally, the Caribbean Research Center is the oldest in the college; the leadership founded it in September 1985. New York had a significant Caribbean population that only seemed to keep growing, so the college founded this center to research and address the community’s needs.
Its academics take a multidisciplinary approach to understand New York Caribbean sociology, the socio-cultural and economic dynamics within the Caribbean-American population, and the immigrant experience writ large.
Who Is in Charge of Medgar Evers College?
Dr. Patricia Ramsey is the president and head of Medgar Evers College. She is the sixth person to hold this office and was appointed in March 2021.
Ramsey has been a prominent HBCU thought leader for decades, known for her work both as a senior executive fellow of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) and in various roles at Bowie State University, the oldest HBCU in Maryland.
Her training is in botany and biology, which she pursued before her work in academia.
Is it Hard to Get Into?
Medgar Evers College requires its students to have a high school degree with an average grade of 65%. You can also get in with 2250 on the GED or 2500 on the TASC.
Other Universities in New York with High Rates of Black Students
While Medgar Evers College is the only HBCU in New York, there are several other colleges in the state that feature high numbers of Black students.
Bryant and Stratton College – Buffalo
Bryant and Stratton College is a higher education institution with locations all over the country, but their location in Buffalo, NY is the founding campus. And that location has the highest percentage of Black students in attendance out of any of the college’s other campuses.
The Buffalo campus sticks out from the 16 other locations scattered through Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, and New York for its unapologetic focus on Black students. More students still can access the school’s offerings through its online school.
History of the School
The school was founded in 1854 as Bryant & Stratton National Business College. The school was created as a gambit by a group of three business-minded men: Dr. John Collins Bryant, Henry Beadman Bryant, and Henry Dwight Stratton.
The trio wanted to provide an opportunity for students to learn business skills outside of the apprenticeship system that then prevailed in the culture. At the time, if you wanted to succeed in business at all, you had to be able to obtain a very scarce apprenticeship from an existing businessman.
This school was a major innovator behind the now-widespread practice of higher education in business. Now, you can study all sorts of different fields through Bryant and Stratton, though the school has never lost its practical bent.
At the Buffalo campus, you can find 16 different degree programs in four different areas: Business, Technology, Healthcare, and Human & Legal Services. Most of these programs have to do with specific business trades, like the Medical Office Assistant Diploma, the Office Administration Assistant Diploma, or the Information Technology Assistant Diploma.
Metropolitan College of New York
The Metropolitan College of New York is, like Medgar Evers College, a relatively new school. It has two campuses, one in lower Manhattan and the other in the Bronx. It is a primarily Black institution with 56% of its student population self-identifying as such.
The college is built around a distinctive model of Purpose-Centered Education, which fuses theory and practice in the real world in a social justice context. It is known for altruistic alumni who have a bent toward community service.
There are three schools here: the School of Business, the School for Public Affairs and Administration, and the Audrey Cohen School for Human Services and Education.
When Audrey Cohen founded the Women’s Talent Corps in 1964, she didn’t expect to be laying the foundations for a college. She wanted to provide opportunities for women to be able to work in helping their communities, both in providing jobs and the training to accomplish them.
The training side of this, which would one day become the Metropolitan College of New York, was a 30-week program oriented towards paraprofessional positions like paralegals and teacher’s assistants.
In 1969, the Women’s Talent Corps started allowing men to join in the learning and soon tacked on the second year of training to the program. In 1970, it was renamed the College for Human Services and accredited to award and train people for associate degrees.
In the early days of the College, Cohen and other academics began to refine the Purpose-Centered Education model that still informs the institution today.
In the intervening years, the school leadership added several new graduate programs to the list offered. In 1992, the college was renamed again to be Audrey Cohen College. They only landed at Metropolitan College of New York in 2002.
Mandl School, The College of Allied Health
This school is one of the most distinctive ones on our list – it is a purely professionally-focused college that offers specialized training in health fields. There you can study in the following fields:
- Dental Assistant
- Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- Health and Human Services
- Health Care Administration
- Medical Assisting
- Respiratory Therapy
- Surgical Technologist
Most of these professions require an official certificate or license of completed education in New York State, making a Mandl education very useful for those who wish to pursue it. All certificate and degree programs of study also require the student to participate in an externship, allowing them to integrate what they’ve learned in the classroom with the realities of the outside world.
The college is located in the Studio 54 building, which is well known for its other uses. It’s located right within New York City’s central systems of theater and business.
Mandl School was founded in 1924 by M.M. Mandl. At the time, there was no such thing as standardized training for health paraprofessional fields like Medical Assisting or Surgical Technologist. Mandl wanted to change that, finding that there was enough need for significant training in those fields that an institute of higher education ought to be founded in support of that goal.
Monroe College is an institute of higher education that focuses on bringing personalized care, guidance, and education to its students. It has three physical campuses located in the Bronx, New Rochelle, and St. Lucia. They also offer several programs on their online platform Monroe Online.
Indeed, they offer 20 different fully online degree programs in the Health, Criminal Justice, IT, Business, and Hospitality fields. The school also features 24/7 academic support access through a variety of means, varying from faculty to success centers.
One of the central points of interest for many students is that most of their Bachelor’s degree programs operate within a three-year framework rather than more traditional four-year ones.
Every year, the college gives out $27 million in grants and scholarships to students. Due in large part to this, it has been ranked #1 in U.S. News and World Report’s rankings for social mobility among colleges in the northeast.
The school was founded in 1933 by a group of teachers led by Mildred King as a school of business named after US President James Monroe. They started with only seven students and four classrooms, but after nearly a century of development, they have carved out a niche of diversity, student care, and social mobility that is unparalleled in the region.
Best HBCUs in New York, Final Thoughts
If you want to attend a Historically Black College or University in New York, you only have one choice: Medgar Evers College. And while there is room for a great deal of success and personal formation there, there are also several other colleges within the state that are predominantly Black institutions.
If you want the history of an HBCU, go with Medgar Evers. But if you just want to be in a predominantly Black environment and you’re more interested in the community service focus of the Metropolitan College of New York or the health paraprofessional skills of the Mandl School, don’t hesitate to go towards them.