When you think of American history, what comes to mind? The land of the free and the home of the brave? Harvard and Princeton? Perhaps. But do you also think of Claude McKay, the Harlem renaissance, or Howard and Spelman? If you go to a historically Black college or university, or a HBCU, chances are that you do. But sometimes when the topic of American history is discussed, people forget that African Americans are a part of history too. Thatís when HBCUs step in. Historically black colleges and universities were founded to give Blacks a chance when their resources were limited and their options were minimal. Many of them came from humble beginnings but are now some of the top schools in the country. Today, HBCUs are expanding and becoming centers of knowledge, power, success, and enrichment. They are surpassing the expectations that their founders had by placing their mark on American history and teaching valuable lessons everyday. HBCUs were created to give African Americans a chance that they never had. After Blacks were freed from slavery, they had nothing. Without any money or any knowledge, they had to establish a new lifestyle in order to survive. Many moved up north and some remained in the south. Still, the employment and education front remained stagnant, causing blacks and even some whites to start small schools in their local churches and basements. These small schools have grown into the great HBCUs we see now. Today, they serve a greater purpose than just educating African Americans. They serve as a place of empowerment as well. In a time where it seems that being Black is more of a negative than a positive thing, HBCUs instill a sense of pride in African Americans by reminding them of their past and leading them to their future. At my school, Spelman College, freshmen are required to a class called African Diaspora and the world. There were many things that I did not know about my culture. There were people that I never heard of. If it was not for this class, I would have still been in the dark about so many important people. HBCUs increase cultural awareness indirectly as well by reminding us of the differences of other people. Although these schools are historically Black, people of all ethnicities are enrolled. Not only do they learn about our history, but we learn about theirs too. Historically Black colleges and universities teach us that a school is not just a place for reading and writing, but for growth and development too. It also shows that we can celebrate our culture while embracing diversity at the same time. With nothing but ambition and a dream, people like Sophia Packard, Harriet E. Giles, Oliver Howard, and Mary McLeod Bethune created the institutions that stand before us today. Going to an HBCU has taught me to learn all that you can, take advantage of opportunities given to you, and to respect others around you.