Founded in 1856, Wilberforce University was established near Xenia, Ohio as a joint venture between the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) and the Methodist Episcopal Church. Named after the 18th century abolitionist William Wilberforce, it was the first black owned and operated historically black university in the United States. Built to support the abolitionist cause and to impart education to African Americans, it welcomes students of all faiths, colors, races, and national and ethnic origin.
Due to the hardships resulting from the American Civil War, the university was forced to shut down temporarily in 1862. But due to the efforts of Bishop Daniel A. Payne, the African Methodist Episcopal Church acquired its ownership and reopened it as a private university in 1863. Payne then became the university’s first president and built a team of diverse faculty to provide trainings in the fields of teaching, theology, and law. It was the first black owned university to have a military training program. And over the course of its history, Wilberforce University has attracted leading black intellectuals, such as Richard R. Wright and W. E. B. Du Bois, to its faculty.
Today, it is a fully accredited, four-year coed, liberal arts historically black university (HBCU) and offers more than twenty degree programs and awards leading to Bachelor of Science, Arts, and Master degrees. Wilberforce is also one of only two four-year universities in the nation that insists on a compulsory participation in the cooperative education program in its graduation requirements. The university has experienced steady growth over the last few decades, and is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and is affiliated with many collegiate organizations and associations, including the United Negro College Fund. Prominent alumni includes composer William Grant Still and educator Hallie Quinn Brown.
About Wilberforce University
Wilberforce University was founded in 1856 on a relatively radical principle for mid-19th Century America: to provide African-Americans, many who were fleeing slavery, with a quality, advanced education. It was a progressive concept that has evolved to inspire its current students to become innovators and entrepreneurs. Known today as the first predominantly African-American private university in the nation, it welcomes students of all faiths, races, colors, and national and ethnic origins. The school is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and is affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church as well as many collegiate organizations and associations, including the United Negro College Fund. For more information, visit www.wilberforce.edu.
Monica Badgett says
Wilberforce University was not founded in 1865 it was founded in 1856.
This has been corrected. Thank you!
Cheyney University was founded 1837 the first HBCU
HBCU Reports says
Hi, Yvette. Thanks for your comment. This post is about the first “black owned and operated” HBCU, not the first HBCU. There is a difference. For the oldest HBCUs visit here: https://hbculifestyle.com/oldest-hbcus-in-the-united-states/
And that’s fine! But the first owned and operated university by African Americans is Wilberforce. Furthermore; this same university had the first African American college president Daniel Alexander Payne. You can do this when you own the university!
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