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Henry Martin Tupper, a graduate of Amherst and veteran of the Union Army, in 1865 was commissioned to come to Raleigh as a missionary by the American Baptist Home Mission Society. He arrived in October and “commenced his work among the colored people,” according to an 1890 tract published by that organization. By December he had convened a theological class which met in the old Guion Hotel immediately north of the Capitol grounds. This marked the beginning of Shaw University.
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The school initially was called the Raleigh Institute but in 1870, on receipt of a gift of $5,000 from Elijah Shaw of Wales, Massachusetts, the name was changed to Shaw Collegiate Institute. In 1875 the General Assembly granted a formal charter to Shaw University. That act of incorporation specified that “no pupils ever be excluded from the benefits arising therefrom . . . on account of race, color, or previous conditions of servitude.”
Shaw University is often referred to as the oldest historically black institution of higher learning in the South. In North Carolina others soon followed. Biddle (Presbyterian), Saint Augustine’s (Episcopal), and Scotia (Presbyterian) all were established in 1867. Shaw and Saint Augustine’s historically have been the hubs for the education, cultural, and recreational life of African Americans in the Capital City.
From 1882 to 1918 Shaw operated Leonard Medical School which, during that period, educated over 400 African American physicians. In 1960 the Shaw campus hosted the organizational meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an outgrowth of the sit-ins movement destined to play a major role in the civil rights struggle.
Public and Private Laws of North Carolina, 1874-75, Chapter 153
H. M. Tupper, A Narrative of Twenty-five Years’ Work in the South, 1865-1890 (1890)
Linda Simmons-Henry and Linda Harris Edmisten, Culture Town: Life in Raleigh’s African American Communities (1993)
Jeffrey J. Crow, Paul D. Escott, and Flora J. Hatley, A History of African Americans in North Carolina (1992)