The Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS) is excited to announce a new subject guide to records related to Historically Black Presbyterian Schools.
PHS holds collections that document the educational work of Presbyterians among freedmen after the Civil War and the African American schools founded and supported by Presbyterian pastors and leaders. Several of these schools continue to flourish as fully independent institutions or through affiliations with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The importance of these institutions can be heard in the words of former students such as the late Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon, whose story about attending Barber-Scotia College (video link here) on the day when Dr. King was assassinated reveals a pivotal moment in American history and the history of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
“I went as a Negro,” Cannon said about life at Barber-Scotia. “I became Black, April 4th, 1968.”
As an alumna of Spelman College, a historically Black college, I know HBCUs to be places where students take on a new identity that shapes the way you look at the world just as much as it shapes the way the world looks at you. HBCUs connect you to a network of students, faculty and administrators who support you as a student and an individual.
As a part of the team working on the African American Leaders and Congregations collecting initiative, I have had the pleasure of recording oral history interviews with Black Presbyterian leaders. Like Cannon, these leaders have remarked about the pivotal role their HBCU played in shaping them. Their lives testify to the value of these institutions in the past and present.
Barber-Scotia College is just one institution represented in the PHS archives. Others include: Biddle University/Johnson C. Smith University, Harbison College, Knoxville College, Lincoln University, Mary Allen Junior College, Mary Holmes College, Stillman College and Swift Memorial College.
PHS also holds records documenting smaller Black schools and academies founded by Presbyterians and run by the Board of Missions for Freedmen and its successor agencies. These schools were not colleges, but many of their faculty had ties to Presbyterian HBCUs, and the schools helped prepare future students of HBCUs.
As part of our effort to collect the history of Black Presbyterians and institutions, we invite people who hold records related to these schools to contact us about donating materials to PHS. Please see the Personal and Family Papers page of the PHS website for more information.
This article was adapted from a PHS blog post.
Records of Historically Black Presbyterian Schools:
Other Collection Subjects at PHS: