Albany State University (1903- )

Peace Hall, College of Business, Albany State University, 2011
Peace Hall, Albany State University College of Business, 2011
Creative Commons image (CC BY 3.0)

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Albany State University is a historically black university in Albany, Georgia. It was founded in 1903 by Joseph Winthrop Holley, a native of South Carolina.  This son of former slaves was inspired by the writings of W.E.B. DuBois to try to improve conditions for the South’s African American population by offering industrial and religious education. The first incarnation of the school was the Albany Bible and Manual Training Institute, and initially the school‘s goal was to offer primary and secondary education and to train teachers. In 1917, the school gained state funding and a board of trustees and was renamed the Georgia Normal and Agricultural College.  Also in 1917 it began offering two year post-secondary degrees.

In 1932 the school gained affiliation with the Georgia University System and in 1943 the school’s name was again changed, this time to Albany State College. This name change marked the development of the school into a four year university.  The same year Albany State College awarded its first baccalaureate degree. In 1996 the institution adopted its current name in recognition of the school’s autonomous graduate programs.

Albany, Georgia was a focus of struggle of the early civil rights movement in the 1960s. The desegregation campaign that resulted in mass arrests of civil rights protestors included many students from Albany State University, along with civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The very first two protesters arrested, Blanton Hall and Bertha Gober, were Albany State students, and when they were expelled from school many in the student body sharply criticized the college administration.

The school has remained relatively small. In 1993 it had about 2,300 students.  It continues to focus on training teachers. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education ranked ASU third in the nation for bachelor’s degrees in education awarded to African American undergraduates in 2010. As a liberal arts school, the school also offers 35 diverse undergraduate majors, and master’s programs in education, nursing, criminal justice, business administration, and public administration. Because of its status as a historically black college committed to assisting disadvantaged and diverse populations to achieve higher education, the institution offers a variety of scholarships for students who exhibit academic excellence but who face financial hardship.  Albany State also partners with local high schools for literacy and computer skills programs. Distinguished alumni of the school include Katherine Clinton, an electronics engineer for NASA, and Alice Coachman, who was the first black woman to win an Olympic medal for a record setting high-jump in 1948.

In response to low enrollment of African American men in the University System of Georgia, in 1989 ASU created the Center for the African American Male to identify and address barriers to higher education for African American men and to help them succeed at the University. The Center also focuses on younger students, and has a mentoring program where university students mentor boys in primary school.