#TJFBHM18: Leslie Pinckney Hill, First President of America’s First HBCU


Cheyney University, originally known as the Institute for Colored Youth, was founded by Quaker philanthropist, Richard Humphrey in 1837. After years of reconstruction and internal challenges, the school officially reopened in 1902.

Leslie Pinckney Hill was hired as the principal of the Institute for Colored Youth and would eventually become the first president of the university.

Hill was born in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1880. In 1904, he received his master’s degree in education at Harvard University. He then became a teacher at Tuskegee Institute. From 1907 to 1913, Hill was principal of Manassas Industrial School, in Manassas, Virginia before getting hired to lead the Institute for Colored Youth.

One of Hill’s first official influences, as lead of administration, was his proposal to change the school’s name from Institute for Colored Youth to Cheyney Training School for Teachers in 1914. This was only the start of accomplishments the school would experience while under Hill’s administration.

Throughout his time at Cheyney, Hill raised funds for the school, updated its curriculum, and even directed the chorus. He grew the school’s enrollment from 20 students to about 500, and it became an accredited state college under his leadership.  After his retirement, he lectured at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Other accomplishments include receiving the Seltzer Award for distinguished service after serving as administrator of Mercy-Douglass Hospital in Philadelphia. Also, his poem “The Teacher”, was translated into several languages.
Leslie Pinckney Hill believed education could be used to fight racism. He worked with the Quakers to encourage interracial understanding.

We salute Leslie Pinckney Hill for his contributions to America’s first HBCU.