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Thu, 12.16.1875

Knoxville College (Tennessee) Opens

*On this date, in 1875, Knoxville College opened.  They are a Historically Black liberal arts college (HBCU).   

Founded by the United Presbyterian Church, it is also a United Negro College Fund member school.  Knoxville College is rooted in a mission school established in Knoxville in 1864 to educate the city's freedmen.  In 1875, the church sold its East Knoxville property and purchased its current property, which consisted of a hill that a Confederate battery had occupied during the American Civil War.  

The school's first building, McKee Hall, named for the Reverend O.S. McKee, was completed in 1876, and the school opened in December of that year.  Former governor William G. Brownlow and gubernatorial candidate William F. Yardley spoke at the opening ceremonies.   This school met in the First Baptist Church in East Knoxville in 1866.  Despite general apathy from the city's leaders and threats from poor whites, the school's enrollment gradually grew to over 100.  In addition to Black students, the school had many white students until 1901, when Tennessee passed a law forcibly segregating all schools.   

The Reverend J. S. McCulloch was named the school's first principal, and Eliza B. Wallace was named the school's principal of female students.  The new school was primarily a normal school that trained teachers but also operated an academy for the education of local children. In 1877, the state designated the school a college, to the surprise of McCulloch, as few of the school's students were ready for a college-level curriculum.  In 1890, the state designated the school the recipient of its Morrill Act funds for Blacks, with which the school established mechanical and agricultural departments.  

In 1980, eight buildings on the Knoxville College campus received recognition for having a role in minority education on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district.  Many of the earliest buildings were constructed using student labor, student-made bricks, and lumber donated by alumni.  A slow period of decline began in the 1970s, and by 2015, the school had an enrollment of just 11 students.

In May 2015, the College suspended classes until the Fall 2016 term in hopes of reorganizing. On May 17, 2018, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission approved Knoxville College reopening its doors and offering classes. On July 1, 2018, Knoxville College's website announced the resumption of enrolling students for the fall 2018 semester.  Past alumni include Michael Eric Dyson and Ralph Wiley.  

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A closed window looks down on a dirty courtyard, and black people call across or scream across or walk across defying physics in the stream of their will. Our world... KA ‘BA by Amiri Baraka.
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