This Day in History

Dec. 1, 1865: Shaw University Established

Time Periods: 1877
Themes: African American, Reconstruction, Civil Rights Movements, Education

On Dec. 1, 1865, Shaw University was established in Raleigh, North Carolina, as a co-ed campus with support from private donors and the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. It is the second oldest Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in the South.

Shaw University campus

While most HBCU’s at the time were preparing their students to be preachers and teachers, Shaw University sought to educate Black lawyers and doctors. According to the Shaw University website:

The University was founded in 1865 by Henry Martin Tupper, a native of Monson, Massachusetts, a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War, and a graduate of Amherst College and Newton Theological Seminary.

Shaw boasts many “firsts”: the first college in the nation to offer a four-year medical program, the first historically Black college in the nation to open its doors to women, and the first historically Black college in North Carolina to be granted an “A” rating by the State Department of Public Instruction.

Among its many graduates of note is Ella Baker, who held the founding meeting for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Shaw in March of 1960. Learn more about Shaw University’s founding in the MPT documentary Shaw Rising.