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HBCUs and Colleges Started or Named After Black Women

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bowie State chapter.

Since 1987, every March has been declared as Women’s History Month. This year’s theme for Women’s History Month is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories”. In celebration of this year’s theme, I would like to highlight historical black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other colleges started or named after black women. 

Poro College

Source: https://www.freemaninstitute.com/poro.htm 

Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone was an African-American businesswoman, educator, inventor and philanthropist. When Malone was growing up, the popular hairstyle among Black women was straight hair. She envisioned a way to straighten hair without having to use old methods of using soap, goose fat, heavy oils, butter and bacon grease, or the carding combs of sheep. Malone developed a chemical which could be used to straighten hair without causing damage to the hair or scalp, which became an instant success. In 1917, Annie Malone founded and opened Poro College in St. Louis, Missouri. Poro College was the first educational institution in the United States dedicated to the study and teaching of black cosmetology.

Bethune-Cookman University

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Source: Gordon Parks / Getty Images

Mary McLeod Bethune was one of the most influential women of her generation, she was a civil rights and women activist, an educator, and philanthropist. On October 3, 1904, Mary McLeod Bethune, founded and opened the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls—what would become Bethune-Cookman University. Recognizing the health disparities and lack of medical treatment available to African-Americans in Daytona Beach, she also founded the Mary McLeod Hospital and Training School for Nurses, which at the time was the only school of its kind that served African American women on the east coast. 

Coppin State University

Coppin State University, once known as Fanny Jackson Coppin Normal School, a school for training teachers, was founded in 1926. The school was named after Fanny Jackson Coppin to honor her contributions as a pioneer to education. 


Source: Oberlin College Archives

Lewis College of Business

With a $50 loan, Violet T. Lewis founded Lewis Business College in 1928 for black women seeking secretary skills in Detroit, Michigan. At that time, tuition at the school was $2.50 per week, and there were between 20 and 25 students enrolled. 

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Source: https://pensolelewiscollege.com/dr-violet-t-lewis/

Voorhees University

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Source: https://www.voorhees.edu/our-college/history

Knowing the importance of education, at 23 years old Elizabeth Evelyn Wright founded Voorhees University in 1897 in Denmark, South Carolina. Wright had found her inspiration to open Voorhees University while studying at Tuskegee Institute. 

These women have engraved their names in history by recognizing the need to further education and producing notable contributions to their communities. I hope continuing generations of women follow in their footsteps.

Madison Rogers

Bowie State '24

Madison is a Junior majoring in Business Administration with an Accounting concentration. In her free time, she likes to listen to music, watch podcasts on YouTube, and to write.