Most Distinctive HBCU Campuses

Did you know that many students select a college based on its appearance?  Fortunately for these 21 HBCUs, the campuses have many appealing features that will make them desirable locations for any coed. The selected campuses are located in diverse areas- small towns, large cities, rural areas. Some have mostly newer buildings while others include buildings that are over 100 years old. The diversity and beauty of these campuses mirror the diversity and beauty of HBCUs, themselves.

The Hundred-Seven is highlighting twenty HBCU campuses.  The colleges selected were evaluated on numerous standards including: notable features, identifiable architectural styles, the presence of natural landforms and water, public art, campus layout, landscaping, award-winning designs, LEED certification and features related to Black culture and history: an area for Greek plots and historic relevance as indicated by historic districts or inclusion on the Civil Rights Trail. Extra points were assigned for the use of Black architects and having a view.  

Read about what makes each camput distinctive.

Published: December 2020

Share this page!

#20 (tie) University of the Virgin Islands

One of the youngest HBCUs also has one of the most distinctive campuses. The University of the Virgin Island is actually two campuses- the campus in St. Croix begins with a entrance lined with royal palm trees and houses the school's research center. The St. Thomas campus is nestled beside hills and overlooks the turqoise waters of John Brewers Bay. It features a golf course and a beach.  

#20 (tie) University of Maryland Eastern Shore

The University of Maryland Eastern Shore's campus showcases the best of all the seasons with changing leaves in the fall, a campus coated in fallen snow in the winter and the colors of spring and summer in 20,000 carefully tended flowers. Nature is highlighted in ponds and a branch of the Manokin River runs by the campus. The lone Carolina cherry laurel tree known to exist in the state of Maryland and three county champion big trees can all be found on the campus.

#17 (tie) Norfolk State University

It's fitting that Virginia's youngest HBCU has totally updated and modern main quad comprised of award-winning and LEED certified buildings. While maintaining a few key elements from its past (like its oldest building, Phyllis Wheatley Hall) the campus is anchored by a spacious green quad surrounded by glass-walled buildings that offer perfect views of brick walkways and a reflecting pool with fountains.

#17 (tie) Cheyney University

The charming campus that makes up Cheyney University is highlighted by fieldstone walls that connect the oldest buildings on campus and some of the newest. Stone buildings built in the colonial revival style between 1903 and 1938 serve as a reminder that this is America's oldest HBCU. One building on the campus is on the National Register of Historic Places

#17 (tie) Bowie State University

Looking at the campus of Bowie State University, it is hard to believe it was once a small rural campus in what is now suburban DC. With ponds, sculptures and beautifully landscaped greenspaces, it is the perfect place for students to gather, relax and study. Award-winning designs and unique features like chargings stations for electric vehicles have led one architect to note that the university "has been more willing to push the boundaries of a transformative educational setting" than most other colleges.

#16 Virginia State University

The Virginia State campus sits on a rolling landscape overlooking the Appomattox River. The campus features red brick buildings designed in the international, Queen Anne, Georgian Revival styles. Several campus buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places and recorded in the Virginia HIstoric Landmarks Commission along with those that are LEED Silver and Gold certified. One of the gathering spots on campus is a fountain ringed with the words of founder, Alfred Harris who said "I want a place where all our blacks, girls and boys, may go and drink from the fountain of knowledge until their ambition is satiated."

#13 (tie) Savannah State University

Savannah State's alma mater tells the story, "Where Savannah meets the sea, Where grassy plains and palms abound, Where the flow'rs are gems of loveliness There S.S.U. is found..." Anchored by the historic Hill Hall and highlighted by palm trees, moss trees, cedars, and magnolias Savannah State sits beside a salt marsh estuary that leads to the Atlantic Ocean and is perfect for spotting a variety of wildlife. Other features include a miniature version of the city's famed Forsyth Park fountain and a gazebo beside the campus lake.

#13 (tie) Johnson C. Smith University

Situated on the highest location in Charlotte, the Johnson C. Smith campus offers views of downtown from practically every point, most notably from the stadium. Historic Biddle Hall is considered the city's finest surviving Victorian building and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Granite gates mark the original entry point into the university, leading to the beautiful tree-covered campus.

#13 (tie) Florida Memorial University

After several location changes, Florida Memorial settled in Miami Gardens and became the only HBCU located in South Florida. A palm-tree lined drive leads to a lush green campus with tropical flowers and a lake in the middle. White buildings, including the student center and performing arts building surround the lake, along with plots representing the school's sororities and fraternities.

#11 (tie) Tuskegee University

Not only is Tuskegee a National Historic Landmark, it is the only college campus that serves as a federal historic site administered by the National Park Service. It also has the distinct feature of being the largest HBCU campus; in fact it is one of the ten largest college campuses in the nation. The campus includes buildings designed by notable black architect Robert R. Taylor and built by former students (including the bricks). For history lovers, the home of Booker T. Washington and the laboratory of George Washington Carver can be toured.

#11 (tie) Fisk University

What was once a school built in former Union Army barracks is now a National Historic District due to its architectural, historic, and cultural significance. Beyond the gilded gates that mark the entry to the campus stand buildings designed in High Victorian Picturesque, Italianate Revival, Victorian stickstyle, late modern, Queen Anne, neo-Gothic styles. Perhaps the most well-known is Jubilee Hall, the oldest structure built for the education of black students in the South. The campus also includes Carnegie Library, designed and constructed by the nation's oldest architectural firm in the nation.

#8 (tie) Alcorn State University

Alcorn has many expressions to refer to its campus and setting, starting with the words of its ode, "Beneath the shade of giant trees..." Known by students and alumni as the "Academic Resort" the Alcorn State campus is surrounded by oak trees which give life to the opening of the alma mater. Several ponds dot the landscape among historic properties dating to the early 1800's that were once a part of Oakland College- a Presbyterian school for white men. Ornamental ironwork can be found on campus signs and are a direct connection to the chapel steps-which come from an antebellum mansion house nearby.

#8 (tie) Winston-Salem State University

Winston-Salem State is a campus that appreciates the beauty of the seasons, from autumn's falling leaves along the brick paved walkways to the carefully planted tulips and flowering trees of spring and the blanket of snow that covers the campus at least once a year. Like Bethune-Cookman, the campus of WSSU is a tribute to its founder, Simon Green Atkins, including his homes, which are now used by the college for office builings and the alumni and a statue of Atkins. The arches that once served as the campus entry and are now used as a way symbolize the induction of new students into the 'Ram Family.'

#8 (tie) Bethune-Cookman University

The 85 acre campus of Bethune-Cookman is one that features several ponds, palm trees and Florida native wildflowers.    Not only is the campus of Bethune-Cookman full of Florida flora, but it is a tribute to its founder, Mary McLeod Bethune.  Her home and grave are on the campus; the house is a National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service and her gravesite includes a meditation garden. 

#5 (tie) North Carolina A&T

North Carolina A&T's campus is said to be one that traces the progress of American architecture from Neoclassical to Deconstructivism, with several award-winning buildings.  It's February 1 statue honors the role of its students in the Civil Rights Movement and a new reflecting pool memorializes protests that overtook the campus and community in 1969, leaving one student dead, another injured by police gunfire and a dorm riddled with bullets. And, for good measure, there is a bust of alumnus, astronaut Ronald McNair.

#5 (tie) Southern University

For more than 100 years Southern University has found a home beside the Mississippi River in an area known as Scott's Bluff.  The 500 acre campus includes a lake with fountains, a historic district, and several pieces of public artwork including 'The Red Stick' sculpture which commemorates the history of the city and pays tribute to its name. And it offers beautiful views of the sunset over the Mississippi River.   

#5 (tie) Virginia Union University

Virginia Union's campus, built on land once known as "Sheep Hill" is 84 acres shaded by oaks, magnolias and tulip populars.  Its earliest buildings are 7 that remain of the nine “noble buildings” made of Virginia granite, some inlaid with Georgia pine and designed by African-American architect John Coxhead.  The consistency of the building materials and architectural style-late Victorian Romanesque Revival-give the campus a distinctive 

#4 Dillard University 

Dillard's lush green campus is located in New Orlean's Gentilly neighborhood and sits between a duck pond and a canal that runs to Lake Pontchartrain.  The “Jewel of Gentilly” features historic buildings mixed with LEED certified modern additions-all in the same bright white framing its main quadrangle known as "The Avenue of the Oaks", a tree lined area where no one walks on the grass--unless it is commencement.    

#3 Florida A&M University

Situated on the highest of Tallahassee's seven hills, FAMU's 422 acre campus is bordered by a park with a hiking/biking trail, includes a dozen ponds and an eternal flame to remind the world of FAMU being named College of Year by Time Magazine.  From the Quad to the Set, lush landscaped foliage and massive oaks add to the overall beauty of the campus.  

#2: Hampton University

Hampton alumni affectionately refer to the university as their 'Home by the Sea.'   The campus overlooks the Hampton Roads Harbor and includes the grounds of what was once Little Scotland Plantation (the main plantation house is now the home of the university president).  In addition to the amazing views, the campus includes many notable sites like Emancipation Oak-where the Emancipation Proclamation was first read in the South, the oldest museum in the state of Virginia and Legacy Park, 11 statues of men and women who had an impact on Hampton's history.   

#1 Morgan State University

Recently named a historic site by the American Physical Society, Morgan State tops this list because of its wonderful mix of historic buildings (designed by African-American architects like Albert Cassell, Hilyard Robinson, Leon Bridges) and  modern buildings.  The campus is anchored by a main quad featuring brick pathways,  surrounded by trees and some of the oldest buildings on campus which were constructed of roughly cut local stone; the same feature continues on some of the most recently-constructed buildings.  Its no wonder Morgan State is the only HBCU designated a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


Follow The Hundred-Seven