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Knoxville College is a historically black college in Mechanicsvillemarker, Knoxvillemarker, Tennesseemarker, founded in 1875 by the United Presbyterian Church of North America. At first it offered education in grades 1 through 12 to prepare freedmen for higher education; by 1931 the high school-level Academy was disbanded, leaving Knoxville College a four-year institution of higher education. Knoxville College is a United Negro College Fund member school.


In 1862, the Reverend O.S. McKee, under the auspices of the Freedmen's Mission of the United Presbyterian Church, founded the McKee School in Nashvillemarker, the first organized school for Negroes in Tennessee. The church soon established similar missionary schools for blacks in Mississippimarker, Louisianamarker, Alabamamarker, and Georgiamarker.

In 1872, the General Assembly of the church resolved to discontinue support of the schools in order to establish a college where blacks might prepare for ministerial and teaching careers. Two years later, the church selected Knoxville to be the site of the college as the black residents of the city expressed interest in education and the city was strategically located between existent centers of black education, Nashville and Atlantamarker.

In 1875, Knoxville College began operation in a former freedmen's elementary school. The following year, the college moved to a permanent location on a hill northwest of and overlooking downtown Knoxville. In 1878, only 174 of the student population studied on a level equivalent to or above that of a college freshman.

During the 1880s, black legislators obtained state scholarships for military cadets at the college. During 1890–1909, the college served as the Industrial Department for black students of the University of Tennesseemarker in order to acquire funds for the scientific and industrial education of blacks, authorized by the Second Morrill Act.

In 1914, the College of Arts and Sciences was established. From 1920 to 1950, the normal school was emphasized giving to the school the distinction of being the leading supplier of teachers to black schools in East Tennessee. Since 1950, the College of Arts and Sciences has been emphasized including the implementation of community service programs and dramatic productions.

In 1954, the college charter was amended in order to allow formally the admission of white students, although the children of some white faculty members had previously attended the college. In 1957, the college was one of the first group of predominantly black institutions admitted to full membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). In 1979, the church deeded the title for the college property to the Board of Trustees of the college.

Accreditation loss and legal issues

In 1997, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools removed Knoxville College's accreditation. In August 2005, the Board of Directors fired the college president, Barbara Hatton.

The Tennessean newspaper article

The July 6, 2006 edition of The Tennessean newspaper, based in Nashville, Tennesseemarker, reported a reversal of fortune. The article outlined that a year earlier, the college was down to about 130 students, couldn't pay its faculty or electric bills and was drowning in debt. However, according to the report, enrollment was rebounding with more than 400 students accepted for the 2006 Fall semester from more than 700 applicants. The faculty was being paid, the lights are back on, and the college's debts had been cut by about two-thirds, down more than $2 million.

"Oh, let me tell you it's the best problem in the world", Will Minter, an Oak Ridge National Laboratorymarker official helping as a development strategist and fundraiser for the college, said of enrollment growth. "I'm happy to have one where we're overloaded."

"We are miles ahead of where we were a year ago", said Ronald Damper, a Chicago businessman and chairman of Knoxville College's Board of Trustees. "We've had outstanding success in getting assistance from a number of people to get us to this point. The community has embraced the college."

The Knoxville College Alumni Association, according to the article, was reportedly in the middle of a $1 million fundraising effort, while the college was engaged in a $2.5 million "Road to Success" campaign. Administrators said the college had paid down $2 million in debt, but still was $1 million behind.

Dormitory fire

On February 19, 2007, Colston Hall (men's dormitory) caught fire. As a result of the fire two rooms were destroyed with smoke damage throughout the building. Knoxville Fire Department investigators determined that the fire was accidental and was not due to an electrical problem.


The campus of Knoxville College is located on 39 acres, situated north of downtown Knoxville, in the city's Mechanicsville community. Its 17-building campus continues to be the primary institution for minority students in East Tennessee.

In 1989, but acquired the two-year Morristown College in Morristown, Tennesseemarker, which became Knoxville College-Morristown. The two-year school closed in 1994.

Knoxville College in partnership with the Pilot Gas station located adjacent to the campus (at the corner of Western Avenue and Middlebrook Pike), is revitalizing the Knoxville College Historic District.

Notable alumni


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