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Shaw University is the first college for African-Americans established in the Southern United States, and the oldest HBCU in the region. It is also one of the nation’s oldest learning institutions.

Shaw, which is located in Raleigh, N.C. was founded by Baptist minister Henry Martin Tupper, who worked with the American Baptist Home Mission Society. The school began holding bible and literacy classes in December 1865, with aims to assist African-Americans in the area at the conclusion of the American Civil War.

In 1871, the school was renamed the Shaw Collegiate Institute after major donor Elijah Shaw. The school’s first building is named after the benefactor. Four years later, the school was renamed Shaw University for the final time.

The university has spawned the indirect founding of several North Carolina learning institutions. The founding presidents of North Carolina Central University, Elizabeth City State University, and Fayetteville State University all attended Shaw. In addition, the institution that eventually became North Carolina A&T was located on Shaw’s campus for the first year of its existence.

Notable Shaw alumni include iconic civil rights leader Ella Baker, former New York congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., R&B legend Gladys Knight, and gospel singer extraordinaire Shirley Caesar.

Little Known Black History Fact: Shaw University  was originally published on

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