We Celebrate Juneteenth: HBCUs That Call Texas Home

On June 19, 1865, Major Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to deliver a message: that two years earlier, President Abraham Lincoln had freed the slaves and to press locals to comply with his directive. Although there’s not official reason why the state of Texas was two years late in getting the directive, the law was now in effect, marking the official end of slavery in the U.S.

Today, we recognize those historically black colleges and universities who call Texas home.
Prairie View A&M University
Founded in 1876
Prairie View A&M University, the first state supported College in Texas for African Americans, was established during the Reconstruction Period after the Civil War. This was an historical period in which political and economic special interest groups were able to aggressively use the Federal Government to establish public policy, in an attempt to “alter or reshape the cultural milieu of the vanquished southern states”. The University had its beginnings in the Texas Constitution of 1876, which, in separate articles, established an “Agricultural and Mechanical College” and pledged that “Separate schools shall be provided for the white and colored children, and impartial provisions shall be made for both.” As a consequence of these constitutional provisions, the Fifteenth Legislature established “Alta Vista Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas for Colored Youth” on August 14,1876.


Texas Southern University

On September 14, 1927, the Houston Public School Board agreed to fund the development of two junior colleges: one for whites and one for African-Americans. And so, with a loan from the Houston Public School Board of $2,800, the Colored Junior College was born in the summer of 1927 under the supervision of the Houston School District. The main provision of the authorization was that the college meet all instructional expenses from tuition fees collected from the students enrolling in the college. The initial enrollment for the first summer was 300. For the fall semester, the enrollment dropped to 88 students because many of the 300 enrolled during the summer semester were teachers who had to return to their jobs once the school year began.

The Colored Junior College was established to provide an opportunity for African-Americans to receive college training. The Junior College progressed so fast that by 1931, it became a member of the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and was approved by the Southern Association of Colleges.

Houston College for Negroes (1934-1947)

In the summer of 1934, the Houston School Board changed the junior college to a four-year college and the name to Houston College for Negroes. In 1936, sixty-three individuals became members of the first graduating class. The college operated this way until the summer of 1943, when it formally added a graduate program. In the spring of 1945, the Houston Independent School District severed its relationship with Houston College for Negroes, and thereafter all management of the college was vested in a Separate Board of Regents.

The College continued to operate in Yates High School, but by 1946 it had grown to an enrollment of approximately 1,400 students and needed room to grow. A few years earlier, with the help of Hugh Roy Cullen, a local philanthropist, the college obtained a 53-acre piece of property in the Third Ward area of Houston. With support from two large donors, Mrs. T.M. Fairchild, in memory of her late husband, Mr. and Mrs. C.A. Dupree, and the African American community, the college raised enough money to construct its first building on the new campus. And so, in the fall of 1946, the college moved from Jack Yates High School to its first building, the new T.M. Fairchild Building, which still operates as an active building in the university’s facilities inventory.

Texas State University for Negroes (1947-1951)

In February of 1946, Herman Marion Sweatt, an African American Houston mail carrier, applied to enroll in the law school at the University of Texas. Because Texas was one of the segregated states, Sweatt was denied admission and later filed a suit against the University of Texas and the State of Texas with the support of the NAACP. In response, believing the separate but equal doctrine would carry the day, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 140 on March 3, 1947, providing for the establishment of a Negro law school in Houston and the creation of a university to surround it. This bill was complemented by House Bill 788, which approved $2,000,000 to purchase a site near Houston to house this new college and support its operation. Texas law makers initially considered Prairie View A&M College as the location of this new Law School. However, on June 14, 1947, the decision was made to use the site of Houston College for Negroes, with its new campus at the center of a large and fast growinig black population. Thus, a new law school for Negroes of Texas and Texas State University for Negroes was born.

Under the separate but equal concept, the intention of Senate Bill 140 and House Bill 788 was to create a new university for Negroes in Houston that would become the equivalent of the University of Texas in Austin.

Texas Southern University (1951-Present)

On June 1, 1951, the name of this new university for Negroes was changed from Texas State University for Negroes to Texas Southern University after students petitioned the state legislature to remove the phrase “for Negroes.”


St. Philip’s College
St. Philip’s College, one of the oldest and most diverse community colleges in the nation, is the only college to be federally designated as both a historically Black college and a Hispanic-serving institution.

James Steptoe Johnston, a bishop of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church of the West Texas Diocese, founded St. Philip’s Normal and Industrial School, a school designed to educate and train recently emancipated slaves.
Opening March 1, 1898, the school began as a weekend sewing class for six black girls, taught by Miss Alice G. Cowan, a missionary with the Episcopal Church.

During this period, the institution was known as Bowden’s School.

Artemisia Bowden, daughter of a former slave, joined the school as administrator and teacher.
Miss Bowden served St. Philip’s College for 52 years. Under her leadership, the school grew from an industrial school for girls into a high school and later a junior college.
During this period, the institution was known as Bowden’s School.

The school moved from La Villita to its present location.
After several building additions, St. Philip’s became a junior college for the black community of San Antonio and the area.
During the Great Depression, the Episcopal Church was unable to continue financial support for the school it founded.
Bowden, the president of St. Philip’s College, fought to keep the school afloat. Considered the savior of St. Philip’s College, she frequently used her own money to pay teachers and to keep the doors open.
In a fundraising effort, she traveled around the country with a quartet of singing students soliciting donations for the historically black college.
The school, retaining the St. Philip’s Junior College name, affiliated with San Antonio College and the San Antonio Independent School District, marking the end of the college’s era as a private institution.
An elected district board of trustees, named the San Antonio Union Junior College District (now Alamo Community College District), assumed administration of the two colleges.
St. Philip’s College began admitting white students, and San Antonio College began admitting black students.
St. Philip’s added the Southwest Campus, a hub for technical training programs and formerly part of Kelly Air Force Base, as an official campus. It had previously served as a district extension center.
A multi-million-dollar capital expansion added major buildings; a state-of-the-art theater complex at the MLK campus; the Northeast Learning Center in 1996; and the Learning and Leadership Development Center in 1997 (in collaboration with the City of San Antonio).
The Welcome Center, Center for Health Professions, and Center for Learning Resources are now open to welcome students.

Huston Tillotson University

Huston-Tillotson University is affiliated with The United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). HT, in Austin, is a coeducational college of liberal arts and sciences, operating jointly under the auspices of the American Missionary Association of the United Church of Christ, and the Board of Education of The United Methodist Church. Huston-Tillotson College officially changed its name to Huston-Tillotson University on February 28, 2005.

Huston-Tillotson College was formed by the merger of Samuel Huston College and Tillotson College, which was effective on October 24, 1952. Huston-Tillotson College remained primarily a black college after the merger, although there were no restrictions as to race.

Huston-Tillotson University awards undergraduates, four year degrees in business, education, the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, science and technology. A multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-faith institution, the University welcomes students of all ages, races, and religions.


Wiley College Debate Team depicted in the movie “The Great Debaters”.

Wiley College

Named in honor of Bishop Isaac T. Wiley, an outstanding minister, medical missionary and educator, Wiley College was founded in 1873 during turbulent times for Blacks in America. Wiley College opened its doors just south of Marshall with two frame buildings and an overwhelming desire to succeed in a climate fraught with racism and Jim Crow laws. So entrenched was their desire to succeed that in 1880, rather than moving Wiley College farther out of town, the founders of the College moved nearer to Marshall on 70+ acres of wooded land where the College stands today. Land was cleared and four additional buildings were constructed as student enrollment soared to 160 students with seven full-time faculty members. Wiley College had effectively become the first Black college west of the Mississippi River.

Among the visionaries of that era were presidents revered in Wiley College history. Individuals who persevered in a climate of hostility in the South and in the face of great personal sacrifice were Wiley’s first presidents: Rev. F. C. Moore (1873-1876), Rev. W. H. Davis (1876-1885), Rev. N. D. Clifford (1885-1888), Rev. Dr. George Whitaker (1888-1889), and Rev. Dr. P. A. Pool (1889-1893). It was their strength of character in the face of hardship and acrimony that forged the early foundations of this bastion of academic excellence. Their labors were rewarded in 1888 when the first graduate of Wiley University (for so it was called at the time) was awarded the Bachelor of Arts degree. Mr. H.B. Pemberton would lead the way for generations of Wiley College graduates to come.

Reverend Isaiah B. Scott (1893-1896) was appointed as the sixth president of Wiley College in 1893. His appointment was significant because he was the first Negro president of Wiley. The Freedman’s Aid Society departed from its traditional administration of the school and boldly placed Reverend Scott in the lead role for the fledgling school. Twenty-three years had passed since the founding of Wiley College when Reverend Scott retired in 1896. Two years later, the General Conference of 1896 elected Dr. Scott to the editorship of the Southwestern Christian Advocate. A new generation of students then greeted a new president of the College.

Matthew Winfred Dogan, Sr. (1896-1942) was to become the most prolific and the longest-sitting president to grace the halls of Wiley College. The seventh president took office at the age of 33 and was to become the “backbone and strength of Wiley.” During his 46-year administration of Wiley College, many changes occurred on the campus and in the United States as a whole. At a time in history when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the National Urban League were established to reinvigorate the old abolitionist struggle to achieve complete emancipation and full citizenship for Black Americans, Wiley College was building and expanding.

Two of Wiley’s most outstanding faculty members served during Dogan’s tenure, Dr. James Farmer, Sr., the first black in Texas with a Ph.D. degree and the visionary Melvin Beavnorus Tolson, one of the most distinguished debate coaches in the United States. Tolson taught at Wiley from 1924 to 1947. During his illustrious and firebrand years as a faculty member, he established the Alpha Phi Omega Forensic Society (debate team), which went virtually undefeated. It was, however, the defeat of the National Champions at the University of Southern California in 1935 that established the signal and historic achievement and prominence of the debate team of Wiley College.

In 1906, the College boasted of eleven buildings on campus. The first brick building constructed on campus under the Dogan administration was the central building. It was built of bricks made on campus and was constructed by students. Subsequent campus buildings were constructed around this main building and housed programs in mechanics, printing, tailoring, broom making, woodworking and industrial programs. Among the eleven buildings was the King Industrial Home for Girls bringing the important study of home economics to Wiley.

Dogan’s dream was to expand for the future and indeed Wiley College expanded as building after building was erected for more specialized programs. However, 1906 also brought tragedy to Wiley College as five buildings were destroyed by fire, including the main central building. Although the buildings were in ashes, the foundations remained strong and in 1907, buildings of greater magnitude began to take shape on the campus. Noted philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, made possible the construction of the Carnegie Library that was erected in 1907.

In 1915, floods, cotton crop failures, and a reactivated Ku Klux Klan motivated Southern rural blacks to migrate to the North in search of employment opportunities in the expanding military industry. Within a year and a half, 350,000 African Americans had moved from Southern farms to the factories of Northern cities. However, Wiley College was continuing to expand. Coe Hall, named for former teacher, Mrs. Isabel Coe, was built to serve as the men’s dormitory. Coe’s father had donated the sum of $5,000 to the College. Thirkield Hall, a magnificent three-story structure built with the grandeur befitting an institution of higher learning, was erected in 1918 and named for Bishop Wilbur P. Thirkield, a close friend of the College and former president of Howard University.

The Daniel Adams Brainard Chapel was erected in 1924 with a capacity for 800 students. The Chapel was equipped with a pipe organ that was one-of-a-kind among similar sized colleges of the time. In 1925, Dogan Hall was built to accommodate women in dormitories. Dogan Hall was a truly lavish residence hall in its day. The Refectory was also erected during this time period as a dining hall for students and a place for extra-curricular activities. Truly a pioneer in the educational arena, Wiley College took the leadership role in reorganizing Black schools of higher education and in 1929 renamed itself Wiley College, dropping the use of the word “University”. It was at this time the high school and trade school were discontinued. Wiley College was recognized in 1933 as an “A” class college by the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools of the southern states. This marked the first time any Black school had ever been rated by the same agency and standards as other universities.

Wiley College was a leader in planting the seeds of the first social organizations in the Southwest. These fraternities and sororities nurtured the cohesiveness of Black college students. The Beta Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. was formed on the Wiley campus in 1915, the second chapter founded in the United States. The Theta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. was formed in 1922 and the Theta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. was formed in 1923. Other social organizations included the Phi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. in 1924, the Alpha Sigma Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. in 1925, the Alpha Iota Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. in 1930 and the Alpha Chi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc. in 1935.


Jarvis Christian College

Although formal instructional programs at Jarvis began on January 13, 1913, with an enrollment of twelve students, all in the elementary grades, the school got its start in 1904 when the Negro Disciples of Christ of Texas began planning a school for black youth. Major James Jarvis donated land upon which the school could be built; the family deeded 456 acres to the Christian Women’s Board of Missions on the condition it be maintained as a school for blacks. Jarvis opened its doors as Jarvis Christian Institute, modeled after the Southern Christian Institute located in Edwards, Mississippi.

Jarvis is the only historically black college remaining of 12 founded by the Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church. Jarvis’ first students were educated in the remains of an old logging camp, and later in a cabin which became the school’s first multi-purpose building


Paul Quinn College

Paul Quinn College is a private, faith-based, four-year, liberal arts-inspired college that was founded on April 4, 1872 by a group of African Methodist Episcopal Church preachers in Austin, Texas. The school’s original purpose was to educate freed slaves and their offspring. Today, we proudly educate students of all races and socio-economic classes under the banner of our institutional ethos, WE over Me. Our mission is to provide a quality, faith-based education that addresses the academic, social, and Christian development of students.


Southwestern Christian College

On the campus stands the first dwelling erected in Terrell. This home, built by a man named Terrell, was constructed in an octagonal shape to give better protection against Indians. Today it remains as one of the twenty surviving Round Houses in the entire nation–listed by the Dallas Centennial as a place to visit. Even when it was built, the house was the object of interest as it contained the first glass windows in Kaufman County. The doors, however, were typical of the pioneer houses in that they were put together with wooden pegs. The original doors have long since been removed, and other rooms have been added at the back of the house, but the original logs used as supports in the house are still supporting the building. The local chapter of the Historical Society has placed a historical marker at the Round House site.

In the Fall of 1948, with some forty-five students attending, a small beginning was made in Fort Worth, Texas, under the name of Southern Bible Institute. George P. Bowser (1874-1950) played a significant role in this effort.

The Board intended to buy property in Fort Worth to erect a permanent school plant, but in the summer of 1949, an opportunity was afforded to purchase the school property formerly owned by the Texas Military College in Terrell. When the military school closed and the property was offered for sale, the Trustees purchased it. At this time the name was changed to Southwestern Christian College.


Texas College

The College’s history states that in the Spring of 1894, Texas College was founded by a group of ministers affiliated with the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church. The founding represented the start of the educational process for a group of disenfranchised individuals in the area of east Texas, City of Tyler.

The Charter as originally issued July 1, 1907, indicates that the name of the corporation was established as “Texas College,” with the purpose of an educational institution designed to operate under the supervision care and ownership of the CME Church in America. The exclusive educational direction was to include the education of youths, male and female, in all branches of a literary, scientific and classical education wherein [all] shall be taught theology, normal training of teachers, music, commercial and industrial training, and agricultural and mechanical sciences.

On June 12, 1909, the name of the college was changed from Texas College to Phillips University. The noted change was associated with Bishop Henry Phillips, as a result of his leadership and educational interests for mankind. The name change was short lived and reportedly lasted until actions for a name reversal occurred in 1910 at the Third Annual Conference of the church. In May 1912, the college was officially renamed Texas College.

The subsequent years of the College were spent with refinements and enhancements of the educational enterprise. The Articles of Incorporation reflect such efforts with modifications and amendments during periods 1909 to 1966.

Today, the College complies with its founding principles in that she remains open to all individuals without
discrimination on the grounds of national origin, race, religion, or sex…with the right to offer instruction in the
areas of Arts and Sciences, Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences preparation of teachers and the
provision of instructional supports, to those in pursuit of an education.

Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White is Director of Digital Strategy for the Tom Joyner Foundation, a writer and editor.