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Lincoln University (Lincoln Institute) Built and Paid For By the Money of Former Slaves

July 14, 2008


Lincoln University Statue of 62nd Colored InfantryLincoln University has a rich story.  At the close of the Civil War, soldiers and officers of the 62nd United States Colored Infantry, stationed at Fort McIntosh, Texas, but composed primarily of Missourians, took steps to establish an educational institution in Jefferson City, Missouri, which they named Lincoln Institute.

They were compelled to do this because many of them had never received education as slaves.  So when they got into the military, many had learned to write their names for the first time.  If you can imagine how slavery was a way to keep you dumb and uninformed.  And even in that environment, there were Black men and women who were conscious enough to know that they should escape their slave masters to join the military so that they could gain freedom.

Sadly, some of the conscious black men and women were killed in the Civil War.  They gave their lives so that others, the ones too afraid to see a better future, could be free.  But the ones who made it, knew that after the war, they should have a plan and they knew that education must be included into that plan.

 The following stipulations were set for the school:
1. The institution shall be designed for the special benefit of the freed African-Americans; 2. It shall be located in the state of Missouri; 3. Its fundamental idea shall be to combine study and labor. Members of the 62nd Colored Infantry contributed $5,000; this was supplemented by approximately $1,400, given by the 65th Colored Infantry.

They knew that they could not setup the school themselves.  Imagine being black and rolling back into Missouri triumphant.  The southern empathizers would be quick to kill you.  So they entrusted one white man who toured with them with the money and the quest to find land to build this school. 

This goes to show you that we have to work together to make a better way. 

On January 14, 1866, Lincoln Institute was formally established under an organization committee.

By June of the same year, it incorporated and the committee became a Board of Trustees. Richard Baxter Foster, a former first lieutenant in the 62nd Infantry, was named first principal of Lincoln Institute. On September 17, 1866, the school opened its doors to the first class in an old frame building in Jefferson City. In 1869, Lincoln Institute moved to the present campus, and in 1870 it began to receive aid from the state of Missouri for teacher training. College-level work was added to the curriculum in 1877, and passage of the Normal School Law permitted Lincoln graduates to teach for life in Missouri without further examination. Lincoln Institute formally became a state institution in 1879 with the deeding of the property to the state.

Under the second Morrill Act of 1890, Lincoln became a land grant institution, and the following year industrial and agricultural courses were added to the curriculum. In 1921, the Missouri Legislature passed a bill introduced by Walthall M. Moore, the first black American to serve in that body, which changed the name from Lincoln Institute to Lincoln University and created a Board of Curators to govern the University. The North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools accredited the high school division in 1925, the teacher-training program in 1926, and the four-year college of arts and sciences in 1934.

Graduate instruction was begun in the summer session of 1940, with majors in education and history and minors in English, history, and sociology. A School of Journalism was established in February 1942. Twelve years later, the United States Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, and Lincoln University responded by opening its doors to all applicably meeting its entrance criteria.

Today, Lincoln University serves a diverse student clientèle, both residential and non-residential, engages in a variety of research projects, and offers numerous public service programs in addition to providing an array of academic programs.

Lincoln University is a historical school and monumental feat for the former slaves, Civil War heroes and men whose names, they learned to write for the first time, but names we will never know.

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