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Lest We Forget: The Bishop Ward Normal and Collegiate Institute

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

On a chili afternoon in February 2020, a small group of people gathered at the site where The Bishop Ward Normal and Collegiate Institute once stood. The purpose of this gathering was to officially bestow a Historical Marker at the site, granted by the Texas Historical Commissioner.

Following the end of slavery, African American Communities established educational institutiuons for freed African Americans. after the end of reconstruction, federal funding for African American schools decreased, so African American Churches often funded these schools while primary schools opened in Huntsville soon after emancipation. There were no Normal or Collegiate institutions for African Americans.

In the early 1800s, Bishops Richard H. Cain and Thomas M.D. Ward and the Reverend Charles W. Porter of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, led a movement to expand opportunities for higher education for Huntsville area African Americans. After deciding to establish a college, Porter and other community leaders created a Board of Trustees, which consisted of prominent African American leaders, including Joshua Houston, Memphis Allen, Joseph Mettawer and John "Tip" Hightower.

In September 1883, the board of trustees purchased from S.R. Smith a lot 54 acre plot for the location of the Bishop Ward Normal and Collegiate Institute. Hosted in a two story brick building near this site, the school opened on September 17, 1883, with ten students enrolled and with faculty headed by Professor C.W. Luckie. The school followed a Classical Liberal arts curriculum, teaching Latin, Greek, Mathematics and Grammar. The school also had domestic arts and a manual labor department.

By 1884, about 164 students, including boarding students, attended the school. While the school was only open for a short time, it had a profound impact on the Huntsville African American community. In the years following emancipation, The Bishop Ward Normal and Collegiate Institute symbolized African Americans efforts to secure the promise.


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