There Are 2 HBCUs in Ohio, Which Is Right For You?

Top HBCUs in Ohio

Whether it’s the rapidly transforming cities, natural beauty, or strategic location within the United States, there are many things to love about Ohio. If you’re looking for a historically black college or university (HBCU) Ohio has two great institutions to discover.

Both of these colleges contrast widely, so continue reading to discover the best Ohio HBCU location for you. There are also other HBCUs located throughout the nation.

Central State University

Central State University is a black place of education

Like the other Ohio HBCU on this list, Central State University is located in Wilberforce, Ohio. This south-western Ohio university is located just outside of Dayton, Ohio, and offers Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in 32 diverse disciplines.

Central State University started as a two-year program in 1887 after being established by a land grant in the Ohio legislature. The college was originally just used for training in teaching and industrial jobs. CSU changed to a four-year, independent university in 1965.

The other HBCU in Ohio, Wilberforce University, is located just down the street. In fact, these two colleges had a close connection for many years. Central State University was founded in collaboration with the Methodist Episcopal Church, a story similar to many other HBCUs.

Central State University began as a biracial institution but transitioned to an HBCU after the Civil War. The college was reopened in 1863 and was the first in the nation to be owned and run by African American people.

This HBCU was shaped by another war as well. During the World War II era, Central State University officially split from neighboring HBCU Wilberforce University. The college was given its current name in 1951, changing from the College of Education and Industrial Arts at Wilberforce.

Less than 50 years ago, the campus at Central State University was destroyed by a tornado and rebuilt. Since that time, this university has fought back to prominence. Central State University was named the HBCU of the Year in 2017.

Central State University is known for its welcoming admissions, open to any race, gender, and ethnicity. In the campus’ neighborhood is a nature preserve, Ohio Historical Society’s National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center, and Ohio’s other HBCU: Wilberforce University.

This HBCU is accredited by several important institutions, including the Ohio Department of Education, National Association of Schools of Art and Design, and the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

This university supports four colleges, including:

  • College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
  • College of Business
  • College of Education
  • College of Engineering, Science, Technology, and Agriculture

Central State University is a public university with approximately 4,000 enrolled students. This ranks CSU as a small, rural university. Central State University was founded in 1887 and its athletic mascots are the Marauders and the Lady Marauders.

This college offers residential housing for just under 2,000 students. Available residence halls include eight different spaces for co-ed living, underclassmen only, and even dorms for honor students. There are several different living options for students of all ages at CSU.

Hunter Hall and Williamson Hall are co-ed and open to everyone. Green and Anderson Halls are available to male underclassmen while Foundation Hall is available to co-ed upperclassmen and freshmen women. Fox and Harry-Johns Halls are reserved for honors students.

Upperclassmen have several choices, including Foundation Hall II and the new Marauder Pride Community. This building is apartment-style living, including a 10,000 square foot Wellness Center inside. The Marauder Pride Community building is new, built only in 2019.

One of the most important buildings on the CSU campus is the Benjamin Banneker Science Hall and University Student Center. In addition to a greenhouse and botanical laboratory, Banneker Hall hosts a 500-seat cafeteria, bookstore, and two gorgeous ballrooms.

Tour the Galloway Alumni Tower, which was rebuilt after the devastating 1974 tornado that ripped through campus. The Jenkins Technology Education Building also did not survive this tornado but was not restored to its former glory. However, this limited building still stands.

Other campus buildings include the C.J. McLin International Center for Water Resources Management, supporting special majors available at this college. Water Resources Management, Earth Sciences, and Geology students would spend a lot of time here.

Students will also learn in the Charles S. Smith College of Business Joshua I. Smith Center for Education and Natural Sciences, and Charles H. Wesley Hall. All of these buildings are named for notable contributors to HBCUs or to Central State University in particular.

For example, McPherson Memorial Stadium is named for a CSU graduate killed in action during World War II. This building houses football and track teams and has been recently renovated. Named to honor Combined Normal and Industrial Department graduate William Patrick McPherson, who served and unfortunately was killed during World War II.

The CSU campus also includes a large health center. Students are served at this location, in addition to the wider community. The Lackey/Lee Health Center has examination and treatment areas, laboratories, and other facilities to provide comprehensive healthcare.

Take in a concert, recital, or gallery opening at the Paul Robeson Cultural and Performing Arts Center. This building, also rebuilt after the tornado, can seat 850 guests. Paul Robeson was a singer, activist, and actor.

Take care of all of your administrative functions in the Lionel H. Newsom Administration Building or Norman E. Ward Sr. University Center. Enjoy various lounges, shop at the bookstore, or check in on your admissions or financial aid.

This Ohio HBCU features vibrant campus life, including greek societies, student government, and arts organizations that have been featured on Chappelle’s Show and nominated for a Grammy Award.

Central State University achieved college sports championships throughout its history. The first title listed is the 1960 NCAA Small College Men’s Cross Country championship and ends with NAIA 1997 Women’s Indoor Track and Field, with many track and football titles along the way.

This HBCU boasts several famous alumni. Teddy Seymour was the first African American to sail around the world alone and Clay Dixon is the former city commissioner and mayor of neighboring Dayton, Ohio.

Kedar Massenberg is a notable record label executive and producer who graduated from CSU. The musical heritage continues with Nancy Wilson, a famous jazz singer, and Leontyne Price, an opera singer.

Hastings Kamunzu Banda is a CSU graduate and former president of the African nation of Malawi. Famously less diplomatic but another famous graduate of this HBCU is Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth. She is a former star of the reality show The Apprentice.

Wilberforce University

Wilberforce University - a historically black university

Wilberforce University is the other HBCU located in Ohio. Unlike the public Central State University, Wilberforce is a private, nonprofit institution affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. This is the first HBCU to be owned and operated by African Americans.

Central State University, the only HBCU in Ohio, is located just down the street from Wilberforce University. Originally, CSU was a department of Wilberforce University, offering industrial arts and other specialized skills. Over time, the two colleges separated into their own focus areas.

Both of these HBCUs are located within walking distance from each other, in the town of Wilberforce, Ohio. This is a small, rural location in southwestern Ohio, near the city of Dayton, Ohio.

Wilberforce University was originally established as a center to train teachers in classical educational practices for black youths. When this college was formed in 1856, its board members represented people of both black and white backgrounds.

Like many HBCUs, the Civil War forced Wilberforce University to shut down as most of the students were recruited for war. Daniel Payne, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, became the college’s first president in 1863.

Payne was the first Black college president in America. After the college was destroyed by arson in 1865, community members of all races came together to fundraise and rebuild the campus. This college has historically received support from the United States Congress.

The intersectional approach is a trademark of Wilberforce University and is clear from its earliest days. Because of Ohio’s strategic location as a gateway to the northeast, the south, and the Midwest, this campus has always received a diverse gathering of students.

In 1860, most of the college’s 200 students were the mixed-race children of white plantation owners and their enslaved mistresses. These students were not welcome at institutions in the south but could receive an education at Wilberforce.

Around the same era, Wilberforce also extended admission to students from South Africa. This outreach was part of Wilberforce’s founding church, the AME Church, missions to Africa. By 1898, this university supported 20 teachers, 334 students, and 246 alumni.

Because of its thriving diversity, notable faculty members, and strategic location, Wilberforce became a location of Black strength in the United States. Black intellectualism and culture began to thrive, developing a group of elite professionals just years after the abolition of slavery.

Staying true to its roots, a theological seminary was established at the college in the early 20th century. John G. Mitchell served as dean of the seminary and Theophilus Gould Steward, a prominent theologian, politician, and missionary taught at the school as well.

In 1894, the third black graduate of West Point and only African-American commissioned officer in the U.S. Army was a Wilberforce graduate. Lieutenant Charles Young then returned to lead the new military science department at Wilberforce University.

Most of the campus was destroyed by a tornado in 1974 and was quickly rebuilt in the years to follow on nearby land. One of the buildings that were spared by the tornado was the original Carnegie Library. This building was built in 1909 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Another exciting quirk of Wilberforce University is its belief in cooperative education. This idea is a graduation requirement, where all students must experience practical work related to their major. Since 1966, all graduates must engage in an internship or other practical experience in their field.

The early 20th century saw a time of many notable graduates and flourishing legacies at Wilberforce University. Scholar and African American cultural icon W.E.B. DuBois taught at Wilberforce during the 1890s.

Famous alumni include John R. Fox, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, and Florence LeSueur, the first female president of the NAACP. Regina M. Anderson also graduated from Wilberforce and went on to be a playwright and member of the Harlem Renaissance.

Bill Powell is another Wilberforce University alumni. Powell owned and designed Clearview Golf Club, the first integrated golf course in the United States. This course was also the first to be owned and designed by an African American.

Other notable graduates include the economist Milton Wright and William Grant Still. Still is a composer and conductor, most famous for being the first African American to lead an orchestra. He was also the first Black man to have an opera performed under his direction.

Dorothy Vaughn is another famous graduate of Wilberforce University. Vaughn is one of the groundbreaking women featured in the Oscar-winning 2016 film Hidden Figures. Vaughn was a mathematician and NASA programmer during the segregated 1950s.

This connection is probably why NASA opened a new laboratory in 2006, to promote STEM education to students K-12. NASA identified Wilberforce University as a partner to reach underserved communities and provide the engineers of tomorrow.

This new building is called the NASA Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) and the Aerospace Education Laboratory (AEL). These new buildings are an addition to 17 NASA SEMAA sites scattered throughout the United States.

Wilberforce University’s new facility will provide training for underprivileged students in STEM fields, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Students K-12 received training sessions from NASA scientists through summer and academic year enrichment programs.

In addition to these amazing STEM programs. Wilberforce University supports standard student engagement activities. Their sports teams, nicknamed the Bulldogs, are NAIA-level athletes in basketball and cross country for men and women.

Wilberforce also offers intramural sports such as volleyball, flag football, and tennis. This college also offers several Greek organizations, including Alpha Kappa Alpha, Iota Phi Theta, and Zeta Phi Beta.

Best historically black college or university in Ohio, Final Thoughts

Central State University and Wilberforce University are two unique HBCU colleges in the United States. While they are located just down the street from each other, each campus has its own amazing features.

In addition to the two HBCUs in Ohio, there are many spectacular HBCUs located close to Ohio. These universities represent a unique approach to learning, as well as special areas of study you can only find at these colleges.

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