Too often the history of Black people is centered on the actions of White people and the chronicling of African-American art history is no exception. As we witness record breaking sales for Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings, and African-American and African artists selling works for six figures and being acquired by museums, we must remember that the foundation for these achievements are Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) not White art collectors, New York galleries, or the major auction houses.

The oldest HBCU in the United States is Cheyney University, founded in 1837 in Pennsylvania by Quaker philanthropist Richard Humphreys. In 1865, Congress enacted the Freedmen’s Bureau, which led to the federal chartering of institutions of higher education for newly emancipated Blacks. The early focus of HBCUs was on training Black people to become teachers, farmers, and ministers. (READ MORE)