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Celebrating HBCUs During HBCU Week

Since the 1800s, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played a major role in shaping American society. In the 150 years since the first HBCUs were founded, they have continued to produce graduates who are changing the world. 

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced the first National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week (“HBCU Week”). Every year since, each president has issued a proclamation declaring the second or third week in September as HBCU Week. HBCU Week pays tribute to the nations’ HBCUs and their legacy of advancing equality in higher education.  

In honor of HBCU Week, The Home Depot’s Retool Your School Program is celebrating HBCUs by sharing the many ways that they help their students and communities. 

Broadening Access to Education 

Over half of all HBCU students are first-generation undergraduates – a percentage far higher than at other institutions. Also, African American HBCU students are more likely to graduate than Black students at PWIs (Predominately White Institutions). HBCUs are doing their part – and then some – to create the next generation of African American professionals. 

Preparing Students for the Workforce 

Black HBCU alumni are more likely than African American graduates of other institutions to report that their classroom experiences prepared them for the work world. HBCU alumni also report higher satisfaction with the networking and career advising opportunities provided by their schools.

Offering Opportunities to Students from Many Backgrounds

Today, nearly 25% of HBCU students have white, Latinx, Asian or Native American heritage. Additionally, the number of international students at HBCUs has increased exponentially over the past decade. HBCU students meet people from many cultures – something all students need to function in today’s global economy. 

Helping Local Communities

In addition to being hubs of higher learning, HBCUs are also job creators. According to the United Negro College Fund, each year, HBCUs create 134,090 jobs in their local communities and generate $14.8 billion for local and regional economies. Because many HBCUs are in smaller towns, the money generated by these schools – along with the volunteer hours served by HBCU faculty, students, staff, and alumni – help local communities survive and thrive. 

Strengthening the Black Community 

From Charles Hamilton Houston’s decision to train Howard Law students (including a young Thurgood Marshall) to fight Jim Crow, to four North Carolina A&T students’ sit-in at a lunch counter, or the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at Shaw University, HBCUs have always been at the forefront of the African American community’s struggle for justice and equality. That struggle continues to this day and, therefore, so does the involvement of HBCUs. Whether encouraging students to take pride in their heritage, sponsoring professors’ cutting-edge research, or simply providing a place for the community to safely convene, HBCUs provide spaces for the entire Black community to gather, learn, listen, and be heard. 

Diversifying American Industries 

HBCUs play a significant role in diversifying the American workforce. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are 102 HBCUs. These 101 institutions represent just 2.3% of all U.S. colleges and universities. About 10% of African American students attend HBCUs. Despite being less than three percent of all colleges and matriculating just 10% of all African American students, HBCUs graduate

  • 50% of all African American teachers,
  • 50% of all African American professors at PWIs,
  • 50% of all African American lawyers (including 80% of Black judges), and 
  • 40% of all African American members of Congress. 

The impact of HBCUs is even more clear in the hard sciences. HBCUs provide a crucial pipeline for African Americans in technical fields, including

  • 50% of Black doctors,
  • 44% of Black dentists,
  • 42% of Black engineers (including 47 % of all Black female engineers), and 
  • 37% of Black architects.

In fact, in 2010, Howard University awarded 220 Ph.Ds. in STEM disciplines to African American students – more than Harvard, Yale, and U.C. Berkeley combined. Without HBCUs, America would have far fewer people of color in many professions. 

The Home Depot Supports HBCUs 

HBCUs uplift their students, their communities, and the nation. Here at The Home Depot, we support HBCUs because doing so aligns with our values. Through our Retool Your School program and other initiatives, The Home Depot has invested in HBCUs for many years and we’re proud to play a role in supporting HBCUs in their important work. We can’t wait to do more. Learn more about how The Home Depot supports HBCUs and keep visiting The Drill for more HBCU news and insights! 


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