Kentucky State University

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.

Images

Jackson Hall

Jackson Hall

Jackson Hall is shown in this 1898 photograph. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Jackson Hall

Jackson Hall

Jackson Hall, named for first president John Jackson is shown in this 1930 photograph. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Jackson Hall

Jackson Hall

The first building at Kentucky State University, Jackson Hall, still stands today. Photograph courtesy of Stuart Sanders. View File Details Page

Graduation Class

Graduation Class

President Atwood is shown with a group of graduating students in this 1931 photograph. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Junior Class

Junior Class

This 1920s photograph shows the junior class at Kentucky State University. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

1947-48 Basketball Team

1947-48 Basketball Team

Shown here are the members of the 1947-48 men's basketball team at Kentucky State University. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

This photograph of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity chapter shows Rufus Atwood, who was president of Kentucky State University at that time. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Whitney M. Young, Jr.

Whitney M. Young, Jr.

Whitney M. Young, a Kentucky State University alumnus, is honored with a statue on the campus. Photograph courtesy of Stuart Sanders. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Tim Talbott, “Kentucky State University,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed May 26, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/508.

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