committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs







Negro Baptists of North Carolina


        Shaw University is situated in Raleigh, the capital of the State. It has a beautiful location within the city limits, and a few minutes' walk from the Union Station, the Capitol and the United States Government building.

        Although within the city limits, it has an entire square to itself, quiet and secluded as if it were situated miles away in the country. This quiet and seclusion, together with a bountiful supply of pure water, perfect sanitation, sewerage and other city advantages, make Shaw well-nigh an ideal place for study. Its grounds are spacious and well kept, and its principal buildings large, imposing brick structures. There are 25 buildings in all owned by the institution; seven of them are large brick structures and eight are dwellings that are rented by the institution, the income from which is devoted to the aid of needy and meritorious students.

        This institution of learning, that has done so much in uplifting our race in North Carolina and in all the other States of the Union where our people are found in considerable numbers, was established by Henry Martin Tupper.

        Rev. Henry Martin Tupper, D.D., was a native of Monson, Mass. His boyhood was passed upon his father's farm in the outskirts of the town; his parents were not Christians; he attended neither church nor Sabbath School, and the district school for only a short term during the winter; but possessing a thirst for knowledge he read books and papers that came in his way with great avidity and while a mere lad had decided convictions upon the subject of slavery.

        In his eighteenth year he entered Monson Academy, where he fitted for college, and while in the academy was converted.

        As he was dependent upon his own exertions for means to obtain an education he frequently taught school, and while thus engaged in a town in New Jersey he became so impressed with his duty to be immersed that one Sunday afternoon he walked twenty miles to the nearest Baptist Church and asked for baptism. Having received it, he returned to his work Monday morning, and later united with the Baptist Church in Wales, Mass.

        After leaving the academy he went to Amherst College, graduated in 1859; then entered Newton Theological Institution, where he was graduated June 26, 1862, on the day of the battle of Fair Oaks.

        Soon after Governor Andrew, of Massachusetts, issued a call for men to "carry the musket," stating that there was already a surplus of officers, and on the fourteenth of July he enlisted as a soldier; a few days afterward he was ordained and joined the Army of the Potomac about the time of the battles of South Mountain and Antietam; he was in the battle of Fredericksburg and followed the Ninth Army Corps into Kentucky; was in the campaign against Vicksburg and in the raid upon Jackson, Mississippi, under General Sherman. In one engagement a shell burst so near his face that it scorched his flesh; but, though others at the right and the left were killed by the flying pieces, he was providentially spared to do his great life-work.

        Although a private soldier he was constantly engaged in Christian work, holding meetings among the men, writing letters for the sick and wounded and often performing the duties of chaplain. During these years he also found many opportunities of becoming acquainted with the colored people who flocked to the camps, and of studying their condition and needs.

        While a student he had been deeply impressed with a desire to labor as a missionary in Africa; and when in college had a large Sunday School class of colored youths. While in the seminary he was employed as a Sunday School missionary in Boston by the Dudley Street Baptist Church, laboring more especially among the foreign element. Thus Providence had already opened the way for him to obtain a varied and practical experience in missionary work. But the opening up of the South as a field for missionary effort had modified his views in reference to going to Africa, though he had not as yet formulated any definite plans as to how or where he should labor.

        A few weeks after the cessation of hostilities, and previous to his discharge from the army, he received a commission from the American Baptist Home Mission Society to go South as a missionary to the "freedmen" and to select his own field. This commission, coming as it did entirely unsolicited, was regarded by him as the finger of Providence pointing to the home field. After due deliberation he decided upon Raleigh, North Carolina, as a central point for missionary operations. He was discharged from the army July 14, 1865, and on the first of the following October started with his wife for Raleigh. After a tedious journey occupying nearly a week, owing to broken lines of travel, they reached Raleigh October 10th, having purchased tickets Nos. 1 and 2 at Portsmouth, Va., and taking the first train that had passed over the Seaboard route since the close of the war.

        The day following his arrival Dr. Tupper called upon the pastor of the Baptist Church, presented his credentials and made known his mission. Of course at that early date cooperation was not to be expected. It is true that hostilities had ceased, but the bitterness that war had engendered was not easily overcome and several years elapsed before much fraternal feeling was developed.

        Without waiting for further recognition he at once commenced his work among the colored people, whose condition he found pitiable in the extreme. They were poor and destitute; many of them were refugees who had followed the army, and were literally houseless and homeless. Having been in the army, he was especially able to aid them in procuring food and clothing from the Freedmen's Bureau, and at one time had upon his list 175 persons over 75 years of age whom he regularly assisted in obtaining "rations."

        But there was no place where the people could be gathered for religious instruction except under the shelter of a neighboring tree or in their low, dark, comfortless cabins.

        From his diary we quote the following: "December 1st. Visited six families; held a prayer meeting; heard my theological class." Thus December 1, 1865, dates the humble beginning of the educational work of which the present Shaw University is the outgrowth.


        Shaw University was started in a very humble way in a negro cabin on the outskirts of the city. The enterprise grew and larger buildings became necessary, but there was little money either for carrying on or extending the work. Accordingly with a few faithful helpers day after day he shouldered his axe and went out of the city into the woods, and together they felled huge pines and hewed the logs

into timber. After many weeks of struggling and after receiving a little help from the North, the actual work of building began. A large two-story structure to be used both for a church and a school was finally erected on Blount street, a block north of the present location of the University.

        The work continued to grow and again larger quarters were required. At this juncture the mansion and grounds of the late General Barringer, ex-minister to Spain, were for sale. This property, comprising several buildings and 12 acres of land, and occupying an entire square, was purchased at a cost of $13,000. Of this sum $5,000 was pledged by the Hon. Elijah Shaw, of Wales, Mass., whose honored name the institution so appropriately bears.

        Dr. Tupper spent considerable time in the North raising money to complete the payment on the purchase of the Barringer property. In order to aid the students and to teach them the importance of self-help he commenced in the spring of 1871 the manufacture of brick from clay found upon the premises. The amount netted from the brick enterprise the first year, clear of all expenses, in addition to brick used in building, was between $3,000 and $4,000 which was applied toward the erection of buildings.


        The aim of the society at first was mainly to provide schools for the training of ministers and young men as Christian workers. But Dr. Tupper early perceived that the education of young women was of equal importance and in 1870 he received a few coming from different parts of the State, obtaining rooms and board for them in private families. When he first proposed educating young women the idea did not meet with much favor. It was looked upon as a doubtful if not an unwise step. In the meantime the number applying for admission continued to increase until in the spring of 1872 he determined again to appeal to Northern friends for aid, and for two months held a daily prayer meeting with the students, asking the Lord to open the way that suitable accommodations might be furnished for a female department. The following summer he went North and was so far successful in obtaining the necessary funds that upon his return in the fall he commenced a dormitory for girls, which was afterward named Estey Hall in honor of Deacon Jacob Estey and sons of Brattleboro, Vermont, who gave $8,000 toward its erection.

        This was the first effort of the denomination in gathering colored girls into a boarding school, and the Estey building was the first school edifice of any considerable size in the South erected solely for the accommodation of colored women for their Christian development and education.

        Shaw was incorporated in 1875. At that time the work was more elementary than now, but such as was adapted to the needs of the people. The management, however, has kept pace constantly with the progress of the race and the demand of the times until there are today in addition to normal, college and industrial departments, schools of theology, law, medicine and pharmacy.


        In the early days there were trying times and there was no social recognition of President Tupper, his devoted wife and associates on the part of the white people of the city and State. President Tupper and wife spent a night in a corn field in the rear of their humble cabin, having been threatened by the Ku Klux. Every moment of these hours of anxious suspense they expected to see the flames consume their home and all their earthly effects, but a kind, all-wise Providence guarded them through the long night watches, and when the welcome dawn tardily appeared the humble cabin was still standing and in devout thanksgiving they returned to its kindly shelter. The animosity and bitterness of the post-bellum and reconstruction days are happily things of the past, and the work now goes smoothly on with the respect of the community, and at times there is genuine sympathy and helpful cooperation.


        On the 12th of November, 1893, after a prolonged illness, Dr. Tupper breathed his last. His funeral was one of the largest ever attended in the city of Raleigh, and the esteem in which he was held was evidenced by the large concourse of people of both races that assembled on the Shaw campus to pay their respect to his memory and in recognition of the work that he had done. His remains lie on the campus, in front of Shaw Hall, a fitting resting place for the hero who had given more than a quarter of a century of the best part of his life in the city of Raleigh to the uplifting of our race and for the betterment of the State in which he and his devoted wife had for so many years cast their lot.


        On the 17th of March, 1894, Charles Francis Meserve, a native of Abington, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, took up the work where Dr. Tupper laid it down. President Meserve had been engaged in educational work in the New England States for many years, but for some years immediately preceding his coming to Raleigh he had been Superintendent and Special Disbursing Agent of Haskell Institute at Lawrence, Kansas, at that time the largest United States Indian Industrial Training School in the West. He had served five years in this capacity and was expecting to continue indefinitely. When the call came for him to take up the work laid down by Dr. Tupper, he felt that he could not consider it. He was urged by the officers of the American Baptist Home Mission Society to visit Shaw University and look over the field and see the magnificent opportunity to continue the work of uplifting our race so recently in slavery and that had made such marvelous progress during the brief time we had been on the road to freedom. He was so impressed upon visiting Shaw with the importance and need of the work, aside from the fact that he was loyally devoted to the missionary and educational work of his denomination, that he consented to resign his important civil service position in Kansas and take up the work as President of Shaw University.


        During the fifteen years that have elapsed since he came to Raleigh he has given his entire time and strength to the various departments of the institution, endeavoring to build it up both in the esteem of the colored and white people of the South as well as the people of the North. During these years substantial, material and spiritual progress has been made. Modern sanitation has been introduced throughout the institution and a central hot water heating plant installed, and most of the large buildings have been connected with this central plant. Aside from these important improvements the buildings generally have been repaired and renovated and put in a more modern condition. A large addition has been made to the girls' building to provide better facilities for instruction in cooking, sewing, dress-making, laundry work and all other domestic arts. The girls' department is now well equipped and well nigh perfect. A large building known as the Tupper Memorial, to be used as a men's industrial department, was completed last year, a fitting memorial to one who was reared on a New England farm and who was so closely in sympathy all through his life with the industrial ideas that are so essential to the development and support of any race.

        The attendance has increased until it has been necessary for the last three years to refuse many applicants for lack of room. Last year the enrollment was 526 and the disbursements of the institution more than $42,000. The average age of the students was nearly twenty-three and one-half years.

        An interesting feature of the work is the development of self-help on the part of our people themselves. The General Education Society in New York pledged $13,000 for additional buildings on condition that the colored people would raise $5,000 additional. J. A. Whitted, Corresponding Secretary of the Baptist State Convention, was appointed Financial Agent, and in two years of faithful and persistent work, traveling up and down the State, secured more than was necessary. This money was used in the erection of the Tupper Memorial and an addition to Estey Hall, the girls' dormitory.

        Another important addition is the enlargement of the Administration Building and the extending of the heating system to this building. This was made possible by a gift of $2,500 from a generous friend in the North, assisted by several other donors and the American Baptist Home Mission Society. The urgent need at the present time is equipment for the Tupper Memorial, a portion of the money for which is already in hand, and the erection of a larger hospital and a laboratory for the Medical Department.

        All the departments have grown through the years and there has been a growing confidence on the part of the public in the work done by all departments of the institution. There is a kindly attitude on the part of the leading white people of the city toward the work. One of Raleigh's leading citizens remarked not long ago that they felt safe as long as Shaw University was located in their midst.

        More than 7,000 students of both sexes have been enrolled at Shaw University since the work was begun by Dr. Tupper in the autumn of 1865.

        Over 300 men and women have been graduated from the Normal, College and Theological Departments.

        The first class was sent out by Shaw University in 1878 and consisted of the following:


Henry Clay Crosby



Caesar Johnson



Nicholas F. Roberts



Ezekiel E. Smith



Frederick H. Wilkins


Honey Grove, Texas.

Louis H. Wyche




        Of the more than 300 graduates a large number have taken the Theological Course and have become ministers of power and influence in various parts of the South.



        The Leonard Medical School was established in 1880. The first class was graduated in 1886 and consisted of the following men:


M. S. G. Abbott


Pensacola, Fla.

James H. Bugg


Savannah, Ga.

M. T. Pope



A. T. Prince


Beaufort, S. C.

L. A. Scruggs


Southern Pines

J. T. Williams




        Three hundred and one men have been sent out with the degree of M.D. and are practicing in a majority of the States of the Union, and some have located in foreign countries. The good that has been done by these medical men can scarcely be overestimated. It was thought at one time that colored youths had not the ability to acquire even an ordinary education, and when there was broached the subject of medical education it was said that it would be utterly impossible to educate colored men in medicine.

        An interesting feature of the Leonard Medical School is the composition of the Faculty. From the beginning the Faculty has consisted of Southern white men of splendid training and preparation for their work,--in fact, the most skillful and influential physicians in the city of Raleigh. They have gone in and out for years before their students and it would be difficult to find an institution of learning where there is a more devoted feeling of loyalty on the part of students for their teachers. It will be an everlasting monument to the credit of the South that men reared in the South, descendants of slave-owners, and some of them former slave-owners themselves, took hold of this work and have carried it on so successfully and with such a magnificent spirit for so many years.


        While the Law Department has never been large, 43 men have been graduated. The first class was sent out in 1890 and consisted of one man, Edward A. Johnson, of Raleigh. Professor Johnson served for many years as the Instructor of the Law Department, and it was with great regret that his resignation was accepted two years ago on his departure from Raleigh to locate as a lawyer in the city of New York, where he has since been successful, as he was during his career in Raleigh.


        The first class in the Leonard School of Pharmacy was graduated in 1893 and consisted of one man, George P. Hart, of Houmah, Louisiana. A class has been graduated every year since, with the exception of 1899, the total number of graduates reaching 76.


        The blessing that Shaw has been to our race can hardly be estimated. Thousands of young men and women have gone forth from her halls into fields of usefulness and influence. They are found in nearly every State and Territory of the Union, though naturally the largest numbers are found in the South. They are making their way in every walk of life and the majority of them are the substantial, influential leaders of the race. In the teaching profession they have made themselves particularly felt as well as in the ministry. At one time five of the seven colored normal schools of the State were presided over by principals who were Shaw men. Dr. J. O. Crosby, for some years President of the State Agricultural and Mechanical College for colored young men and young women, Dr. E. E. Smith, ex-Minister to Liberia, Hon. H. P. Cheatham, for several years a member of Congress and a former Recorder of Deeds of the District of Columbia, the general and State missionaries and the principals of the secondary schools of the denomination in the State and in other States, as well as several of the professors at Shaw, are Shaw men.


        The Third North Carolina Regiment of the United States Infantry was composed of men of our race, and Shaw figured prominently in this regiment. Col. James H. Young, Adjt. E. E. Smith, Chief Surgeon J. E. Dellinger, Asst. Surgeons M. T. Pope and M. W. Alston, Capts. J. J. Hood and J. T. York and other officers, and many in the ranks were graduates or former students of Shaw. The Chief Surgeon and his assistants and Captain Hood were graduates of the Medical Department.


        Graduates of the Law Department go into court and plead their cases with the same courteous treatment from judge and jury as is accorded to white members of the bar. Success has also been won by the graduates of medicine and pharmacy, and they are found very generally throughout the South. A. W. Benson, of Atlanta, Class of 1895, was the first colored man to obtain a license from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy Examiners. His standing in examination was slightly in excess of 95 per cent. The first man of any race to receive 100 per cent in an examination before the Virginia Board of Medical Examiners was Dr. C. R. Alexander, of Lynchburg, Class of 1891. He is located in Petersburg, Virginia, where he has practiced for many years and has the confidence and respect of the community. He has recently established a hospital that is being operated for the benefit of the poor and needy. During the Spanish-American War Dr. Alexander was Chief Surgeon of the Sixth Regiment of the United States Infantry from Virginia.


        A goodly number of our young men, as has been the case from the founding of the Institution, are studying for the ministry. Shaw has furnished nearly all the denominational leaders in North Carolina and many in other States. In the gospel ministry her greatest influence has been exerted, for her Theological Department has always been well attended, and the minister is still the influential factor in directing the life of the great mass of colored people in every community.


        Many of her former students are thrifty farmers, successful business men and occupy positions of honor and trust in their respective counties. The aim of the institution from the very beginning has been to turn out well-equipped Christian men and women to be leaders in the best sense of the term and thus indirectly but effectually reach the great masses of the people. This has been done with signal and gratifying success.


        Shaw believes in coeducation. Men and women meet in the class room, in the chapel and around the family board on terms of equality. The Women's Department is known as Estey Seminary. It was predicted that coeducation would be a dismal and disgusting failure, but it should be said to the great credit of the race that there never has been a scandal connected with the institution. President Meserve states that after nearly a quarter of a century spent in educational work among white young men and women, Indian young men and women and colored young men and women, he has found it no more difficult to maintain good discipline and proper relations between the sexes than he has in other fields with other races.


        The influence exerted by Shaw is well-nigh world-wide. At the present time she has students from the West Indies and Africa and has enrolled them from Central and South America. Although a home mission school, her spirit reaches out to other lands. Missionary Hayes, the well-known African missionary, was a Shaw student. Dr. Lulu C. Fleming and four others from Shaw have done missionary work on the Congo. A Prince of the Royal line, Alfred Impy, a nephew of King Kama, of the Kaffir tribe of Cape Colony, South Africa, was for some time a student. He came to Shaw to get his education, with the intention of returning to do missionary work at home. He was a fine, manly fellow and, although he could speak and write English only indifferently when he came, he made good progress and his untimely death was greatly mourned by all who knew him.

        It is worthy of note that Shaw men and women do not become criminals and seldom, if ever, do educated young men and women belong to the criminal or lawless classes. Rather are they conservators of law and order and preservers of the peace. Shaw students and gradutes are as a rule Christian men and women of clean lives, and some of them are earnest workers in the cause of temperance and social purity. Deplorable indeed would be the condition of our people, only a generation from actual slavery, were it not for the stalwart men and pure women from Shaw now found in nearly every community, who, by their example and precept, show the possibilities of our race and exert such a strong controlling influence for good over the ignorant and less favored.


        This sketch of Shaw University and its work would not be complete did we not emphasize the fact that President Meserve is holding the institution up to the highest standards and loftiest ideals and is keeping Shaw in touch with the best methods of the day. While there are college and normal departments and much attention is given to the institution because of her professional departments, yet the industrial idea is by no means put out of sight. Outside of the professional departments all of the students spend half a day at their books and the other half at some trade. If you were to visit the women's departments in the afternoon you would find scientific instruction right up to date given to the girls in cooking, in dressmaking, in sewing, in millinery, and in all the arts that make the home what it should be. If you were to visit the Tupper Memorial, when completely equipped, you will find young men learning the trade of the blacksmith, the mason, the carpenter, and you will also in other rooms find them at work at the drafting boards, preparing plans and estimates and receiving instruction in all lines of industrial work, for which there is to-day such demand.

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