On this day in history, January 9, 1866, Fisk University was founded in Nashville, TN, in 1866, soon after the end of the Civil War, and it has been one of the nation’s premier historically black colleges ever since. Students at Fisk are required to complete a 37-42 credit hour CORE Curriculum, including classes such as Introduction to Business and Entrepreneurship and The World and Its People. Fisk offers 16 major and minor programs in addition to its pre-professional programs.

In 1953, Fisk became the first predominantly black campus to receive a charter for the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s oldest academic honor society. It’s also home to the Ladies of R.A.G.E. dance team, which promotes school spirit and serves the community as positive role models. The Fisk Jubilee Singers introduced ‘slave songs’ to the world in 1871 and continue to sing and travel worldwide to this day. Notable alums of Fisk include W.E.B. Dubois and Ida B. Wells.

n 1866, six months after the end of the American Civil War, leaders of the northern American Missionary Association(AMA) – John Ogden, Reverend Erastus Milo Cravath, field secretary; and Reverend Edward Parmelee Smith – founded the Fisk Free Colored School, for the education of freedmen. AMA support meant the organization tried to use its sources across the country to aid education for freedmen. Enrollment jumped from 200 to 900 in the first several months of the school, indicating freedmen’s strong desire for education, with ages of students ranging from seven to seventy. The school was named in honor of General Clinton B. Fisk of the Tennessee Freedmen’s Bureau, who made unused barracks available to the school, as well as establishing the first free schools for white and black children in Tennessee. In addition, he endowed Fisk with a total of $30,000. The American Missionary Association’s work was supported by the United Church of Christ, which retains an affiliation with the university. Fisk opened to classes on January 9, 1866.

With Tennessee’s passage of legislation to support public education, leaders saw a need for training teachers, and Fisk University was incorporated as a normal school for college training in August 1867. James Dallas Burrus, John Houston Burrus, Virginia E. Walker, and America W. Robinson were the first four students to enroll at Fisk in 1867 and upon graduation Broughton and the two Burrus’ were the first African Americans to graduate from a liberal arts college south of the Mason-Dixon line.


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