Formed as an alternative to whites-only colleges in the late 19th and 20th centuries, historically black colleges and universities remain relevant today. They tend to be less expensive, more diverse, more helpful to struggling students and more student-friendly than other schools. Five of these schools have law degree programs approved by the American Bar Association.
North Carolina Central University
ABA-approved since 1950, North Carolina Central University’s law school had 611 students in the 2013-14 school year, about 59 percent of whom were minorities and 49 percent of whom were black. The state legislature authorized the founding of the school in Durham, North Carolina, in 1939 to fill a void created by the closure of historically black Shaw University law school in 1914. About 60 percent of NC Central graduates passed the state bar examination in 2012. That’s down from 74 percent in 2011 and 73 percent in 2010.
In Washington, D.C., the nation’s center of political power, Howard University graduates more black lawyers than any other law school in the nation. Students hail from nearly every state in the union. The school was founded in 1869, four years after the Civil War ended. The curriculum emphasizes social justice and diversity issues. Second-year students can participate in law clinics with established attorneys. Supreme Court justices Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan have delivered speeches there.
Thurgood Marshall School of Law
The Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston was established in 1947 and completely renovated in 2004. The student body in 2013-14 was 86 percent minority, including 49 percent black and 13 percent Hispanic. In 2012, 63 percent of its graduates passed the Texas bar examination. At least three of the school’s graduates went on to become U.S. congressman and two became federal judges. In 2014, the faculty teaching at Thurgood Marshall were graduates of prestigious programs including Harvard, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Southern California.
Southern University Law Center
The Southern University Law Center of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was ranked the best value at graduation in 2011 by "U.S. News and World Report." Its graduates made up about seven percent of the Louisiana legislature and held about 40 judicial posts in 2014. In the 2013-14 school year, 65 percent of enrolled students were minorities and 62 percent were black. About 59 percent of graduates passed the state bar examination in 2012, about 5 percent less than the state average. In 2011, 66 percent passed and in 2010 about 59 percent passed the exam.
Florida A&M University College of Law
Based in Orlando, the Florida A&M University College of Law was created in 1951 after student Darnell Hawkins was denied admission to law school at the University of Florida on the basis of his race. The school moved into newly-constructed facility in 2006. About 34 percent of the student body was black in 2014, and 15 percent Hispanic. The school’s Center for International Law and Justice focuses on human rights issues and hosts study-abroad programs in Costa Rica, England, France, Italy, South Africa and Spain.
- North Carolina Central University School of Law: Information Report
- North Carolina Central University School of Law: History
- Howard University School of Law: Admissions Packet
- Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Texas Southern University: Admissions Brochure
- Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Texas Southern University: Information Report
- Southern University Law Center: Facts & Figures
- FAMU College of Law Viewbook
- U.S. Department of Education: Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Higher Education Desegregation
- American Bar Association: Approved Law Schools
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