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On this date, we mark the founding of Alcorn State University in 1871. It is among over 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in America.
Alcorn State University is a public, coeducational institution of higher learning in Lorman, MS. It is a land-grant university consisting of schools of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Psychology, Nursing (located in Natchez, MS), and Agriculture and Applied Science. Additionally, Alcorn offers master’s degree programs in Education and Agriculture. Alcorn began with eight faculty members; today, there are more than five hundred faculty and staff members.
The student body has grown from 179 mostly local male students to more than 3,000 students worldwide. The school was founded on the site originally occupied by Oakland College, a school for whites established by the Presbyterian Church. It closed its doors at the American Civil War's beginning so its students could enlist. When it failed to reopen at the war's end, the property was sold to the state of Mississippi in 1871 and renamed Alcorn University in honor of James L. Alcorn, then governor of the state. Hiram R. Revels resigned his seat in the United States Senate to become Alcorn's first president.
The state legislature provided $50,000 in cash for ten successive years for the establishment and overall operations of the college. The state also granted the school three-fifths of the proceeds earned from selling 30,000 thousand acres of land earmarked for agricultural colleges. This money was to be used solely for the agricultural and mechanical components of the college. In 1878, the name Alcorn University was changed to Alcorn Agricultural Mechanical College. Its original 225 acres of land grew to become a 1,700-acre campus. The goals for the college set by the Mississippi legislature clearly emphasized training rather than education. Like other black schools during these years, the school was less a college than a trade school.
At first, the school was exclusively for Black men, but in 1895 women were admitted. Today, women outnumber men at the university, 1,800 to 1,200. In 1974 Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College became Alcorn State University. While early graduates of Alcorn had limited horizons, more recent alumni are successful doctors, lawyers, dentists, teachers, principals, administrators, managers, and entrepreneurs. Alcorn has had 15 presidents, with Dr. Clinton Bristow, Jr. becoming the 16th in 1995. Over the decades, the college that once was a struggling institution has become one of the leading Black universities in the nation.
Alcorn State is now fully accredited with seven schools and degree programs in more than 50 areas, including a nursing program, and it will continue to serve the generations to come. Its distinct heritage will never be lost. Over time, Alcorn has followed a careful plan to retain and build on its students' image and potential, attracting young people who intend to receive a quality education. Alcorn has served the state of Mississippi, the nation, and the world for over 145 years. past alumni include Willie Foster, Ethel Sayles, Myrlie Evers Williams, Horace Cayton Sr., and others.
Black American Colleges and Universities:
Profiles of Two-Year, Four-Year, & Professional Schools
by Levin Hill, Pub., Gale Group, 1994