History of Alcorn State University
the oldest public historically black land-grant institution in the United
States and the second-oldest state-supported institution of higher learning in
Mississippi. Alcorn University was founded in 1871 as a result of the people of
Mississippi’s efforts to educate the descendants of formerly enslaved Africans.
It was named in honor of the sitting governor of Mississippi, James L. Alcorn.
situated in Claiborne County, seven miles west of Lorman, 80 miles south of the
capital city of Jackson, 45 miles south of Vicksburg, and 40 miles north of
Natchez. The site was originally occupied by Oakland College, a school
established by Presbyterians in 1828; the state of Mississippi purchased the
Oakland campus for $40,000 and named it Alcorn University. Hiram R. Revels resigned
his seat as a United States senator to become the University’s first president.
The state legislature provided $50,000 cash annually for the University’s first
10 years to support its establishment and overall operation. Additionally, 30
acres of land were sold for $188,928; Alcorn received three-fifths of the
proceeds, or $113,400. This funding was used for Alcorn’s agricultural and
the institution’s three major study components were the four-year college
track, the two-year college track, and the three-year graded track. Students
spent the morning, from seven o’clock until noon, in
classes. In the afternoon, they worked in various University shops for eight
cents per hour. Room and board, including laundry, cost about $5 a month.
Alcorn University became Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College. The
college was exclusively for males at first, but eventually women were admitted.
A dormitory for women was built in 1902. Over time, facilities increased from
three historic buildings to more than 80 structures. The original purchase of
225 acres of land grew to a campus of more than 1,700 acres.
Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College became Alcorn State University.
Governor William L. Waller signed House Bill 298, granting this status. Alcorn
has thrived by continuously accomplishing dynamic goals and objectives despite
limited resource allocations from the state. By the early 1990s, Alcorn’s
physical plant and academic programs evolved into a more diversified University.
The student population is now representative of more than 65 counties, more
than 30 states, and at least 18 foreign countries. The University provides an
undergraduate education that enables students to successfully pursue work in
graduate and professional schools, engage in teaching, and enter other
Mississippi recognized the importance of educating all citizens, Alcorn has gained
status and importance. From the original eight faculty members in 1871, the
University has grown to more than 800 faculty and staff. The student body has increased
from 179 students to more than 4,000 students with varied ethnic backgrounds.
Although early graduates of Alcorn had limited horizons, today’s graduates are
successful in their chosen professions, and many are outstanding entrepreneurs.
Throughout Alcorn’s history, the leadership and faculty remained committed to enhancing
the institution’s image and to attracting young people whose interest is the
pursuit and receipt of a quality education. Over the decades, “the college that
excelled against great odds” has become one of the leading universities in the
nation. Alcorn State University operates divisions with degree programs
in more than 50 areas, including the bachelor’s, master’s, and educational
The collaborative strength and contributions of Alcorn’s
past 18 presidents during its more than 140 years of existence have enabled the
institution to excel. On March 4, 2014, the Mississippi Board of Trustees of
State Institutions of Higher Learning voted unanimously to appoint Dr. Alfred
Rankins Jr. as Alcorn State University’s 19th president. President Rankins'
background and vision are strategically aligned with Alcorn’s history and
tradition. He is poised to expeditiously move Alcorn State University to the
next level of excellence.
Josephine M. Posey
History Research Associate(Author) Against Great Odds: The History of Alcorn
State University (1994)