Florida Memorial University is a private university located in Miami, Florida and is the only Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Southern Florida. The school’s history dates back to two separate institutions, the Florida Baptist Institute which was founded in 1879, and Florida Baptist Academy which formed in 1892. Florida Baptist Institute was founded by the Black Baptist Church of Florida in Live Oak, Florida, with Reverend J.L. Fish as its first president. Florida Baptist Academy was founded by Reverend Mathew Gilbert with the help of Reverend J.T. Brown and Sarah Ann Blocker, who was an instructor in Jacksonville, Florida.
In 1918, the Florida Baptist Institute renamed itself Florida Memorial College and the Florida Baptist Academy became Florida Normal and Industrial Institute. Both institutions, now junior colleges, relocated to St. Augustine, Florida. In 1941, the two junior colleges merged and renamed the new four-year college the Florida Normal and Industrial Memorial Institute. The campus occupied 110 acres of land on the outskirts of St. Augustine which had been the “Old Homes Plantation,” one of the largest slave-holding plantations in the state.
In 1942, the college changed its name to Florida Normal and Industrial College and then in 1950 to Florida Normal and Industrial Memorial College. By 1963 it became known as Florida Memorial College, the name it kept until 2004 when it took its current name, Florida Memorial University. The campus relocated to Miami, Florida in 1968.
The university’s enrollment had grown dramatically in the past three decades. In 1976 it had 402 students. By 2008, the enrollment stood at 1,807 students. Memorable alumni include Barrington Irving, who was the first black person and youngest pilot to fly solo around the world in 2007. Memorable faculty include John Rosamond Johnson who wrote “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” with his brother James Weldon Johnson in 1900. In 1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) declared the song the “Negro National Anthem.”
Florida Memorial University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award 41 undergraduate degrees and four graduate degrees. In July 2006, Dr. Sandra T. Thompson became the President of Florida Memorial University.