For Mountain Youth

Historical Marker #773 in Madison County notes the location of Berea College, a school founded in 1855 by abolitionist John G. Fee.

In 1853, Kentucky emancipationist Cassius Marcellus Clay invited minister and abolitionist John G. Fee to Madison County to establish an antislavery community. Fee arrived in 1854, and, with the help of other anti-slavery advocates, established a village. He named the settlement Berea, a biblical name, for a place where the people "received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the scriptures daily."

Fee eventually established a one-room school that taught both boys and girls. The school also taught blacks and whites of all classes and religious denominations. Oberlin College graduate and school principal John A. R. Rogers and his wife, Elizabeth, a teacher, arrived in the late 1850s. Fee and Rogers wrote a school constitution in 1859 to create an institution of higher education, but both were exiled from Kentucky by pro-slavery proponents in the wake of John Brown’s Harpers Ferry raid.

After the Civil War, Fee and Rogers returned to Berea and established the Berea Literary Institute, which became Berea College. The school quickly became known for its mission as a coeducational, non-sectarian, racially-integrated college, which was virtually unheard of in the nineteenth-century South.

In 1904, Kentucky passed the Day Law, named for its sponsor, Carl Day. This law outlawed racially-integrated higher education in the state’s schools, whether public or private. Berea College sued, and the case made it the Supreme Court in 1908. Although Kentuckian John Marshall Harlan was the lone dissenter, the segregationist ruling was upheld. As a result, the Lincoln Institute in Shelby County was established to serve Berea’s displaced African American students.

After the Day Law passed, Berea readjusted its mission and instead focused on providing an affordable education to white students in the southern Appalachian Mountain region. The Day Law remained in effect in Kentucky until 1950, when Berea was allowed to reopen its doors to African-American students.

Images

Berea Bell Tower

Berea Bell Tower

This early 20th century postcard photograph shows the bell tower at Berea College. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Early Berea Buildings

Early Berea Buildings

This postcard includes three photographs of early buildings at Berea College. Included are the first school house, which was built in 1855, the home of founder John G. Fee, and the first women™s residence hall. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cassius Marcellus Clay

Cassius Marcellus Clay

In 1854, Cassius Marcellus Clay, pictured here, donated some of his Madison County, Kentucky land to John G. Fee to establish the Berea settlement. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Berea's Lincoln Hall

Berea's Lincoln Hall

Lincoln Hall on the campus of Berea College is shown in this early 20th century postcard image. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Lincoln Institute

Lincoln Institute

This postcard shows Lincoln Institute near Simpsonville in Shelby County. Lincoln Institute was established as an African American higher education alternative when Berea College was segregated by the Day Law in 1904. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Tim Talbott, “For Mountain Youth ,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed March 26, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/173.

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