Historically Black College and University (HBCU) students, fans, supporters, and alumni can show pride in their Black educational institution by wearing HBCU apparel. People who attend HBCUs often feel a sense of community with their fellow students and alumni, and wearing apparel with their educational institution’s name or logo on it is a great way to show support. In addition, buying HBCU apparel made by Black-owned alumni helps support their unique businesses.
What Are Some Interesting Facts About HBCUs?
Black students have attended Black colleges and universities since the 1800s. These colleges originated in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and they aim to provide Black youths with a good education or training to become skilled professionals. They were made in response to more established colleges and universities preventing Black students from attending because of racial discrimination and gained popularity in the late 1860s. Here are some notable facts about the establishment and development of these institutions:
- There are 101 HBCUs in the nation. The U.S. Department of Education identifies 101 accredited HBCUs in 19 states. Alabama has the most HBCUs with 14.
- Black churches played a pivotal role in creating the first HBCUs. Along with the assistance of the American Missionary Association and the Freedmen’s Bureau, Black churches helped create the first Black higher-education institutes.
- The oldest HBCU was established in 1837. Richard Humphreys, a Quaker philanthropist from Pennsylvania, donated one-tenth of his estate to help found Cheyney University, the first Black university in the United States. This school, established in 1837, was initially called the African Institute and was renamed the Institute for Colored Youth. In 1983, the college became known as Cheyney University.
- The first Black-owned and operated HBCU was Wilberforce University. This Ohio school was founded in 1856 and is named after William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a British politician who fought to abolish the slave trade and slavery.
- A large percentage of Black teachers and dentists graduate from HBCUs. More than 50% of Black school teachers graduated from an HBCU, and more than 70% of Black dentists graduated from an accredited HBCU. Howard University in Washington, D.C., produces the most Black graduates in medicine, law, engineering, and social work.
- Anyone can go to an HBCU. All students are welcome to apply to an HBCU, regardless of race, ethnicity, or nation of origin. According to a 2018 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly a quarter of students who attend an HBCU are not Black.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Involvement With HBCUs
The U.S. Department of Education helped spur the creation of many HBCUs when it passed the Second Morrill Act on Aug. 30, 1890. This legislation required states with public higher education systems that were racially segregated to create a land-grant institution for Black students any time it establishes one that’s restricted to only white students. When the Department of Education passed the Higher Education Act of 1965, Congress officially designated a historically black college or university as a school of higher learning that was established and accredited prior to 1964 and that had a principal mission to educate Black Americans.
Every year, through the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities, students can apply for the HBCU Scholar Recognition Program. This program honors current HBCU students for their excellence and commitment to improving standards of education and living within their community. These students take part in the National Annual HBCU Week Conference, where students can wear their HBCU apparel to show pride in their college or university. Alumni of the HBCU Scholar Recognition also wear vintage HBCU apparel depicting the institution they attended.
What Are Some Popular HBCUs?
While there are over 100 HBCUs in the United States, here are some of the most popular institutions, based on enrollment and job-placement rates:
- Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia: Spelman College, established in 1882, is a liberal arts college. It’s the biggest producer of Black women receiving Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
- Howard University in Washington, D.C.: Howard University, founded in 1867, is a private research university and also produces top-ranking STEM graduates.
- Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Florida: The Florida A&M University, founded in 1887, is primarily a doctoral-research university offering over 60 bachelor’s degrees programs in a wide range of studies.
- West Virginia State University in Institute, West Virginia: West Virginia State, an 1890 land-grant university has 23 bachelor’s degrees programs and seven master’s degree programs.
- Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, Louisiana: Xavier University, founded in 1915, is the only current Catholic HBCU. Students from Xavier University of Louisiana often go on to medical school.
Why Do People Wear HBCU Apparel?
The primary reason people wear HBCU apparel is to show their affiliation to the school they attended. Students and alumni of HBCUs share a bond, legacy, and history of the college or university they attend or attended. They often feel pride in going to an HBCU, and wearing the school’s logo, name, or crest helps celebrate the milestone of going to any of the prestigious HBCUs. Whether attending a game, going to a music festival, homecoming, or HBCU reunion, wearing a shirt or hat is a great way for students or alumni to say “I love my HBCU apparel.”
As the popularity of wearing HBCU apparel grows, Black business owners make specific HBCU clothing and apparel anyone can wear.
Black-Owned Brands Making HBCU Apparel
Here are some brands that specialize in making high-quality and affordable apparel for HBCUs:
Legacy History Pride
While attending Howard University, student Tahir Murray wanted to blend fashion with HBCU pride. He began Legacy History Pride from his dorm room at Howard University. Today, Murray holds apparel licenses with every accredited HBCUs and recently partnered with the National Basketball Association’s Brooklyn Nets to release a limited-edition three-piece set. This collaboration helped with the Nets’ HBCU outreach program during Black History Month. You can see athletes like quarterback Cam Newton wearing Legacy History Pride apparel, as well as celebrities like Chance the Rapper.
Support Black Colleges
Founded in 2021 by two Black women from Howard University, Support Black Colleges has a mission to inspire, uplift, and support HBCUs. Support Black Colleges recently partnered with the NBA to create a line of All-Star merchandise. A portion of the proceeds from Support Black Colleges goes to scholarships for limited-income students who wish to attend an HBCU. Support Black Colleges also sells vintage HBCU clothing pieces for many schools, such as Grambling State University.
Collegiate Luxe makes designer HBCU apparel to give anyone a chance to find a fashionable way to express their pride in attending or supporting HBCUs. Collegiate Luxe makes apparel for every accredited HBCUs, as well as specialty items like the Black Love collection.
HBCU Grad is one of the leading and most recognizable HBCU apparel companies. Starting in 2020, the founders of this company have made hip clothing worn by celebrities, athletes, and HBCU supporters. HBCU Grad has a strong following on Instagram and its YouTube channel.
Last Bison Standing
Last Bison Standing is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity that sells HBCU apparel to raise funds for various charities. Proceeds from their sales help provide scholarships, pay off student debts, and help individual Howard University students buy textbooks. The team at Last Bison Standing has a license to sell Howard University apparel.
African American College Alliance
The African American College Alliance blends HBCU apparel with hip-hop culture for urban streetwear. Rappers, R&B singers, and other hip-hop celebrities have sported African American College Alliance apparel since 1991. Today, this Black-owned HBCU apparel company makes a variety of products for fans and alumni. For those looking for vintage HBCU clothing, they can pick up classic ’91 hoodies, sweatpants, and T-shirts with the African American College Alliance logo and their college or university logo printed on them.
HBCU Culture Shop
The founder of HBCU Culture Shop, Dainelle Riley, wanted quality apparel to wear representing her HBCU, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. When she couldn’t find what she was looking for, she began designing and making her own clothing. Seeing the success of her line of HBCU apparel, other colleges and universities asked Riley to design clothing for their institutions. Riley’s designs blend African/tribal designs with HBCU logos to create fashionable and accessible HBCU apparel for anyone to wear.
Tones of Melanin
In 2017, Tones of Melanin founder Ashley Jones wanted to wear trendy apparel representing Norfolk State, where she was attending school. After feeling frustrated by the lack of clothes showing support for HBCUs, she created Tones of Melanin. In addition to providing high-quality HBCU apparel, the company helps provide marketing for select HBCUs to encourage students to continue their education. You can find Tones of Melanin at various retailers, including Fanatics.
Hyp Kreationz founder Krysta D. Winston is a Bethune-Cookman University graduate who sought to create clothing that represents the Black culture and community. Winston’s creations spread uplifting and encouraging messages, with her main one being “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” the motto of Bethune-Cookman University. Hyp Kreationz sells HBCU apparel, as well as statement T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies with messages like “I Am Black History” and “Black Wall Street.”
Wearing HBCU apparel is a great way to show affiliation to an HBCU higher-education institution. Several retailers, including Fanatics, carry a wide range of HBCU apparel, so fans, friends, or alumni of HBCUs can show their support for these prestigious colleges and universities.
When someone wonders where to buy sports-oriented HBCU apparel, Fanatics is the place to shop. In addition to carrying officially licensed sports apparel, Fanatics also carries sports collectibles and memorabilia for all leagues, from college to professional. From sports jerseys to autographed sports collectibles, Fanatics has everything a dedicated sports fan, including HBCU students and alumni, could want.