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WHAT IS AN HBCU?
They are institutions of higher education in the U. S. that were established prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that are accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting entity. The first HBCUs (Cheyney University, Lincoln University and Wilberforce University) were established before 1861, but most were founded after the American Civil War in the Southern U.S. during the period of Reconstruction (1863-1877).
After Reconstruction, in the era of segregation prior to the Civil Rights Act, the majority of institutions of higher education served predominantly white students and disqualified or limited enrollment by black students. For a century after the end of slavery in the U.S. in 1865, most colleges and universities in the South prohibited any Blacks from attending, while institutions in other parts of the country regularly employed quotas to limit admissions of Blacks.
Currently, there are 107 HBCUs in the country in 19 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including both public and private institutions.
HBCUs have experienced an 11% increase in enrollment in recent decades that continued even during the pandemic, and almost 340,00 students presently attend HBCUs. Among many notable graduates of HBCUs are Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Toni Morrison, Thurgood Marshall, Spike Lee and Kamala Harris.
Fisk University was a natural choice to be one of the first to participate in the Denyce Graves Foundation's flagship program, Shared Voices. Fisk, a private, historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the liberal arts and has long been identified with excellence in music.
Founded immediately after the end of the American Civil War in 1866 by members of the American Missionary Association, Fisk initially focused on the liberal arts, theology, and teacher training to educate freedmen in Nashville. The University was named for Clinton B. Fisk, a Union general and assistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau of Tennessee. The Association's work was supported by the United Church of Christ, which retains an affiliation with the institution.
Fisk is the oldest institution of higher education in Nashville and, in 1930, it was the first African-American university to gain accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Its 40-acre campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Shortly after its founding, the University experienced financial hardship and sent its fledgling student choir, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, on tour between 1871 and 1878 to raise support for the school. The choir's tours throughout the U.S. and Europe earned nearly $1 million (in current dollars) and funded academic programs and the construction of Jubilee Hall, now a National Historic Landmark. With the tradition of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, it is no surprise that Fisk is one of the first institutions to participate in Shared Voices.
Most notable among Fisk alumni is Robert McFerrin, Sr., who was the first African-American male to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. Other renowned alumni are W.E.B. Du Bois, John Hope Franklin, Nikki Giovanni, Judith Jamison, John Lewis, and Ida B. Wells.
Your generous donation to the Denyce Graves Foundation supports our efforts in bringing Shared Voices to more of our nation’s vocal arts programs, to enrich the lives of more students, and help encourage a cultural landscape within the vocal arts at American universities that reflects the diverse world in which we live.