Alabama State University
In 1867, African-American leaders founded Lincoln Normal School at Marion in Perry County, Alabama. Alabama State University descended from Lincoln Normal School, making it one of the oldest Black colleges. In 1868, the American Missionary Association (AMA) operated and financed the school. In 1869 the AMA, with financial support from the Freedman’s Bureau and the Colored People of Alabama, raised money to construct a new building. In 1870, the Alabama Legislature began appropriating funds to help operate the school.
In 1871, Peyton Finley, the first black-elected member of the State Board of Education, petitioned the Legislature to establish a university for colored people. Though rebuffed, Finley persisted and in 1873 his efforts led the Alabama Legislature to establish a state Normal School and University for the Education of the Colored Teachers and Students.
In 1874, The institution’s first president, George N. Card, led the effort in reorganizing Lincoln Normal School in Marion as America’s first state-supported educational institution for blacks. The school continued at Marion for 13 years.
While Lincoln operated in Marion, African Americans pressed for a more prominently state-supported school for black youths. They were rewarded in 1887 when the legislature authorized and provided funding for the establishment of the Alabama Colored People’s University. The flip-side of this advancement is that the State Normal School and University at Marion would be discontinued, provided, officials of the black school could find a suitable new location for the school that was acceptable to whites. Under the leadership of President William Burns Paterson, who was white, Black citizens who wanted the university in Montgomery pledged cash and land and temporarily donated the use buildings. Months after the legislation, the university opened in Montgomery at Beulah Baptist Church.
In 1887, The university taught its first classes in Montgomery, AL. Due to legal wrangling, the school operated for two years solely on tuition fees, voluntary service and donations before the state would resumed its financial support.
The university erected Tullibody Hall in 1890 as its first permanent building. That building burned in 1904 and was replaced in 1906 by the university’s first brick structure. Paterson, who is generally considered its founder because of his 37 years of service to it, died in 1915. Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute just a few miles east, died the same year.
In 1925, George William Trenholm was succeeded by his 25-year-old son, Harper Councill Trenholm, who would serve as president for 37 years. H. C. Trenholm’s oversaw the change from a junior college to a fully accredited four-year institution in 1928. In 1929 it became State Teachers College. In 1935 the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), granted State Teachers College a Class B recognition.
In 1940 Trenholm initiated a graduate degree program, and State Teachers College awarded its first master’s degree in 1943. During H.C. Trenholm’s tenure, the university constructed eight brick buildings, a swimming pool and a stadium for sporting events. Alabama State College for Negroes in 1948 and Alabama State College in 1954.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956) awakened a new consciousness among the students and faculty at Alabama State. They paid a heavy toll for their involvement in the movement. In a state that committed to segregation, state funding dried up and they lost accreditation by SACS. In 1962, Levi Watkins assumed the presidency. Watkins set out to broaden the mission of the institution and was successful at reclaiming the institution’s SACS accreditation in 1966. In 1969, the governing board of the institution approved a name change to Alabama State University.
Watkins retired from the presidency in 1981 and was succeeded in turn by Robert Randolph (1981-1983), Leon Howard (1983-1991), C.C. Baker (1991-1994) and William H. Harris.
Alabama State University features a wide range of academic departments, including
Languages & Literatures
Criminal Justice & Sociology
History & Political Science
Computer Information Systems
Accounting & Finance
Health, Physical Education & Recreation
Prosthetics and Orthotics
Biomechanics and Motor Control Lab
Health Information Management
Math & Computer Science
In the early 1920s, the university purchased an 80-acre farm, which hosts most of its current holdings. The state also appropriated money for dormitories and dining facilities during that time. ASU has added many buildings since that time to help provide quality undergraduate and graduate instruction, which lead to degrees in liberal arts, the fine arts, business, the sciences, teacher education and other professions.
ADDRESS: 915 South Jackson Street, Montgomery, AL