The Soldiers' Dream
Lincoln University was founded by black enlisted men of the 62nd and 65th United States Colored Infantries and their white officers, who fought for the cause of the Union during the Civil War. The black soldiers of these two regiments were the victims of an 1847 Missouri law that prohibited black people from learning to read and write.
Amidst the horror of war, these soldiers were given the opportunity to rise above this obstacle when their white officers established informal classes for them. As the war came to a close, the men dreamed of sharing the gift of education with other blacks in Missouri. They resolved to establish a school in their home state dedicated to teaching freed blacks.
The Second Step in the Formation of Lincoln University
Towards the end of the war, the men began to solicit funds to accomplish this dream. With some donating as much as a year's salary to the cause, they were able to collect more than $6,000. Their efforts resulted in the establishment of a school that they located in Jefferson City, Missouri, and named Lincoln Institute.
Richard Baxter Foster, a former 1st Lieutenant in the 62nd Infantry, became the first principal of the newly established institution. On Sept. 17, 1866, in an old frame building in Jefferson City, the school opened its doors to the very first class. In 1870, Lincoln Institute received a $5,000 appropriation from the state of Missouri for teacher training. College level work was added to the curriculum in 1877.
Keeping the Dream Alive
With the deeding of its property to the state in 1879, Lincoln Institute formally became a state institution. Later, under the 2nd Morrill Act of 1890, the school became a land-grant institution. In 1921, the Missouri Legislature passed a bill introduced by Walthall M. Moore, the first african american to serve in that body, which expanded the schools mission and changed its name to Lincoln University.
The North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools accredited the high school division in 1925, the teacher-training program in 1926, and the four-year college of arts and sciences in 1934. Graduate instruction was added in the summer session of 1940.
Furthering The Dream
During the next four decades, Lincoln University surpassed all expectations, growing into a culturally rich and diverse institution. In 1954, when the United States Supreme Court made Brown vs. the Board of Education the law of the land, Lincoln University opened its door to all applicants who met its entrance requirements. This resulted in the school's most significant increase in enrollment.
Today, Lincoln University is a comprehensive land-grant institution serving a diverse clientele, both residential and commuter. The school provides an array of academic programs, engages in a variety of research projects, and offers numerous public service programs.
The Soldiers' Dream has been realized.