Kentucky State University

Historical Marker #1752 in Frankfort notes the 1886 founding of the only public Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in Kentucky.

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. 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.

Though it has faced a number of crises in recent decades, KSU continues to educate thousands of students. The school has nationally renowned programs in agricultural, including a Pawpaw Tree research program and Kentucky's only aquaculture program.

The marker reads:


John H. Jackson, before becoming first president of college, headed black teachers' assoc. in Kentucky and promoted establishment of schools for instruction of black teachers. His efforts led to legislation founding college which became Ky. State. He served 1887-1898 and 1907-1910. First permanent building, Jackson Hall, was named for him. Hall listed on the National Register.


School was chartered 1886; opened 1887 with three teachers and 55 students. The first state-supported institution of higher education for blacks, school gained funds from legislature for building and teachers, and from Frankfort city council for site and clearing of grounds. Ky. State accredited as four year college in 1931; achieved university status 1972. Over.

This marker was dedicated in 1984.