BLOGS

February Fifteen...

Image Source: Lawson State Community College (link below)

Topics: African Americans, Civil Rights, Education, Human Rights, Women's Rights

Knoxville College

Knoxville College was founded in 1875 as part of the missionary effort of the United Presbyterian Church of North America to promote religious, moral, and educational leadership among the freed men and women. Its mission today is a direct outgrowth of the purpose of its founding.

Knoxville College opened as a normal school for the training of teachers, but was designated a college in 1877. Dr. John Schouller McCulloch, who had been a chaplain in the Civil War, was called as the College’s first president. The school offered teacher training and full college courses in classics, science, and theology. There were classes in agriculture, industrial arts, and medicine (1895-1900). After the erection of its first building, McKee Hall (the administration building) in 1876, students helped construct most of the other buildings on campus. Wallace Hall (1891) and McMillan Chapel (1913) were built with student labor. A former student, William Thomas Jones, designed McMillan Chapel. Most of the bricks for these buildings were made by students at the campus brickyard. In 1904, students made and used or sold one million bricks. The College also owned some timberland (given to the school by a former student) which was used for its lumber needs.

Since there were so few blacks in the early days that prepared for higher education; Knoxville College initially offered classes from first grade through college level. The elementary department was discontinued during the 1926-27 school years, and the high school, or academy, was dropped in 1931.

Lane College

In 1882, one of the nation’s early Black Church denominations founded what has since evolved into Lane College. Now referred to as The Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, the organization was originally named the Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church in America when it formed in 1870. Among its top priorities was the establishment of schools to educate the newly freed Negroes following the Civil War. This enterprise of building a school in Tennessee was conceived as early as November 1878 at the CME denomination’s Tennessee Annual Conference. The CME church’s first Bishop, William H. Miles, presided over the meeting which convened at the old Capers Chapel CME Church in Nashville, Tennessee. A most pivotal moment of the conference occurred when Reverend J.K. Daniels presented a resolution to establish a Tennessee school. Amid much applause, the resolution was adopted, and a committee was appointed to solicit means to purchase a site. Reverends C.H. Lee, J.H. Ridley, Sandy Rivers, Barry Smith, and J. K. Daniels constituted this committee.

Due to the great yellow fever epidemic of 1878, the committee’s work was hindered; but when Bishop Isaac Lane was appointed to preside over the Tennessee conference in 1879, there was a turning point. He met with the committee, gave advice, and helped to formulate plans for the founding of what would be called the “CME High School” (now Lane College). For $240, Bishop Lane purchased the first four acres of land to be used for the new school, and they were located in the eastern part of Jackson, Tennessee.

On November 12, 1882, the “CME High School” began its first session under the guidance of its first principal and teacher, Miss Jennie E. Lane, daughter of Founder Isaac Lane. This first day of school marked the beginning of a powerful and ongoing commitment to the uplifting of people throughout the south, the nation, and the world.

Langston University

Established in 1897 as the Colored Agricultural and Normal University (CANU), Langston University was envisioned at least seven years earlier with the 1890 Second Morrill Act. It required states or territories with land grant colleges either to admit African Americans or to provide an alternate school for them in order to qualify for federal funds. In 1892 three citizens of the All-Black town of Langston, including David J. Wallace, asked the Territorial Council to locate a college in the town. In 1897 Rep. William Gault introduced House Bill 151, creating the college and placing it at Langston in Logan County. By September 1898 teachers conducted the first classes at a Presbyterian Church and at Langston's public school, during the first building's construction. CANU lured Inman Page from the Lincoln Institute in Missouri to be the first president.

In accordance with the legislation CANU tried to provide African Americans with an industrial and agricultural curriculum, a normal or teacher's college, and a liberal arts curriculum, all with less funding than many Oklahoma institutions that provided just one of these missions. Under Page the university expanded in the number of students and in campus size. By 1915 the student population had grown from 41 to 639, and the campus had six main buildings.

Lawson State Community College

Lawson State Community College, located in the southwestern section of Birmingham, is composed of two main divisions--an academic division and a career/technical division.

The career/technical division was first established as a result of the Wallace-Patterson Trade School Act of 1947. This Act established Wenonah Vocational and Trade School on August 24, 1949. The school opened with eleven instructors and seventy-five students enrolled in ten courses and one related subject. The first president of the school was Dr. Theodore A. Lawson. The initial funding received by the technical division was $75,000.

The academic division began as Wenonah State Junior College, which was founded under Act No. 93 of the May 3, 1963 Legislature. The College was created in 1965 and was named after its first president in 1969. In 1967, Wenonah State Junior College held its first commencement exercise with 33 graduates. In 1968, another milestone was accomplished when the college received its accreditation by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1969, there were 300 students enrolled at Lawson State Junior College. On October 1, 1973, Wenonah State Technical Institute and Wenonah State Junior College merged and became one institution known as Lawson State Community College.

With its long-standing history, there has been a short list of presidents, Dr. Theodore A. Lawson, 1949-1971; Dr. Leon Kennedy, 1971-1978; Dr. Jesse J. Lewis, 1978-1987; and Dr. Perry W. Ward, 1987 through the present time.
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