Historical Marker #1752 in Frankfort notes the 1886 founding of this traditionally African American institution of higher learning.
Before 1887, African American students had little choice in their college education if they wanted to stay in Kentucky. Black students could either attend Berea College in Madison County or what became Simmons University in Louisville, both of which were private schools. In an effort to provide more opportunities for black higher education, the Colored Teachers State Association petitioned the Kentucky General Assembly in 1886 for an additional state-funded college for African American students.
In the fall of 1887, the association's petition became reality when the State Normal School for Colored Persons opened in Frankfort. Normal schools of the time were designed to train those students interested in pursuing teaching careers. The school was established on the east side of Frankfort on forty acres donated by the city. The first building on the campus, Jackson Hall, honored the school's first president, John Jackson.
In 1902, the school's name was changed to Kentucky Normal and Industrial Institute, and additional classes outside of the education field were offered, including agriculture and mechanics. This change provided for the allowance of federal funds available to African American schools under land grant college guidelines. In 1926, the school was renamed the Kentucky State Industrial College for Negroes. However, it took the leadership and hard work of President Rufus Atwood, who served in that capacity from 1929-1962, to gain accreditation, establish the institution on firm financial ground, and become Kentucky's best known college for black students. In 1938, the college's name was changed yet again to the Kentucky State College for Negroes.
Kentucky State University became the official school name in 1952. During the 1950s and 1960s the school continued to grow by adding students and the number of majors offered. Today, the college is the learning center for more than two thousand students, granting degrees in fifty-five different majors. Notable alumni include the major civil rights leader, Whitney M. Young, Jr.; Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, Moneta Sleet, Jr.; and Kentucky's first black mayor, Luska Twyman.