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Regents Hear Presentation on Historically Black Colleges and Universities

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Atlanta — February 12, 2008

The University System of Georgia’s three historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) were among the System’s original 18 campuses. They have played a crucial role in providing key access to public higher education for the state’s historically underserved minorities, and will continue to play important roles with regard to access, education, research and service. That was the basis for an informative presentation to the Board of Regents today by retired Savannah State University professor Dr. Charles Elmore. The presentation, which detailed the rich history of Savannah State University (SSU), Fort Valley State University (FVSU) and Albany State University (ASU), coincides with Black History Month.

The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines HBCU’s as higher-education institutions established before 1964 whose principal mission was, and is, serving the African-American community. The USG’s three historically black institutions collectively enroll more than 9,700 students, 3.6 percent of the University System’s enrollment of 270,000 students for all 35 of its institutions. In addition, the HBCU’s enroll 13 percent of the System’s 65,000 African-American students.

“Historically black colleges and universities have contributed to the efficacy of the University System of Georgia not only by their diversity but also by the contributions of their students, faculty and alumni,” said Elmore, who taught at Savannah State University for more than 35 years before retiring in 2007.

The retired professor shared some of the rich history of the USG’s historically black colleges and universities with the regents, bringing the details of their origins to life. Here is a capsule history of each institution, in order of the date of their founding:

Savannah State University

Founded in 1890 as a result of the Second Morrill Land Grant Act, Savannah State is the oldest public historically black college in Georgia. Located in Athens for several months after its founding, SSU moved to its permanent location in Savannah in 1891 and became a member of the newly formed University System of Georgia in 1932, at which time the institution’s name changed to Georgia State College.

The college served as Georgia’s land-grant institution for African-American students until 1947, when the land-grant designation was transferred to what was then Fort Valley State College. In 1950, Georgia State College changed its name again, to Savannah State College. The Board of Regents granted the school university status in 1996, and the institution became Savannah State University. Approximately 3,170 students enrolled in the university’s 23 undergraduate degree majors and five graduate programs in Fall 2007.

Fort Valley State University

Fort Valley State was founded in 1895 as Fort Valley High and Industrial School. In 1932, the school became a member of the newly created University System of Georgia as a four-year degree-granting institution. In 1939, the school merged with the State Teachers and Agricultural College of Forsyth, founded in 1902, to form Fort Valley State College. In 1947, the Board of Regents resolved to designate Fort Valley State College as the 1890 Land-Grant College for Negroes in Georgia. The Georgia General Assembly, in response to the regents’ resolution, made this designation official in 1949. To this day, Fort Valley State remains the only 1890 land-grant institution in Georgia.

In 1957, the college was among the first of the HBCU’s to receive full accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The Board of Regents granted the school university status in 1996, and Fort Valley State College became Fort Valley State University, A State and Land-Grant University. Located in the town of Fort Valley in Peach County, the university had a Fall 2007 enrollment of approximately 2,560 students.

Albany State University

Joseph Winthrop Holley founded Albany State University in 1903 as the Albany Bible and Manual Training Institution. Born to former slaves in South Carolina and educated in the Northeast, Holley returned to the South to start a school in Albany, Ga., after reading The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B Du Bois’ work on the plight of black people in this city. With the help of a $2,600 gift from a benefactor in Massachusetts, Holley organized a board of trustees and purchased 50 acres of land for the Albany Bible and Manual Training Institute.

The institution first received financial support from the state of Georgia in 1917. Designated as an agricultural and teacher training college, the institute was renamed The Georgia Normal and Agricultural College. In 1932, the college became part of the newly formed University System of Georgia. Granted four-year status and renamed Albany State College in 1943, the school’s enrollment increased, and the college began offering its first graduate programs in 1981. The Board of Regents granted the institution university status in 1996, at which time it was renamed Albany State University. This past fall, the university enrolled a record 4,000 students pursuing bachelor’s, master’s and education specialist degrees, as well as a variety of non-degree educational programs.

BACKGROUND ON DR. CHARLES ELMORE: Elmore, a tenured professor of humanities and chair of the Department of Mass Communications, has authored numerous historical monographs, books and articles. He was named a Regents Distinguished Professor of Teaching and Learning during 1997-1998 and received the 1999 Governors Award in the Humanities from Gov. Roy Barnes. His work has been cited in the Washington Post, Savannah Morning News, and The Atlanta Constitution. Under Elmore’s leadership, Savannah State University’s Department of Mass Communications was accredited in May 2007 by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC), joining the University of Georgia in Athens as the only other mass-communications program in the state of Georgia to achieve that accreditation.

Learn more about it

Visit the online New Georgia Encyclopedia for an in depth history of each of The University System of Georgia’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Visit the following sites for more information on Dr. Charles J. Elmore and his upcoming speaking engagements.

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