Tuesday, January 21, 2014

History: State College for Colored Students, 1891-1947

Written by: Emily Cottle

This post kicks off a three part series where we will explore the history of Delaware State University. Each post will include a different era of DSU’s history: part 1 will focus on the State College for Colored Students (1891-1947), part 2 will cover Delaware State College (1947-1993), and part 3 will cover the most recent history of Delaware State University (1993-present).
Delaware State University by Dr. Bradley Skelcher.

Established on May 15, 1891 by the Delaware General Assembly, the State College for Colored Students (SCCS) was created as a result of the second Morrill Act of 1890. This act required that existing land-grant institutions either open their doors to students of all races or create a new separate institution for black students. (The original land-grant institution in Delaware was the University of Delaware.)

Upon its official opening on February 2, 1892, five courses of study leading to a baccalaureate degree were available: Agricultural, Chemical, Classical, Engineering, and Scientific. A Preparatory Department was established in 1893 for students who were not yet qualified to pursue a baccalaureate degree upon entrance. In 1897, SCCS began offering a three-year normal course leading to a teacher's certificate.

The first graduates received their diplomas in May 1898. The teacher education program was expanded to four years in 1911 and students who successfully completed the program were awarded a Bachelor of Pedagogy degree. In 1912, the available areas of study changed to Academic, Agricultural, Mechanic Arts and Domestic Science, all leading to a Bachelor of Pedagogy. The Preparatory Department was phased out during the 1916-1917 school year and a Model Grade School was established that awarded a high school diploma upon successful completion of four years of study.

Academic programs continued to evolve and expand. In 1923, a Junior College Division was added. Four-year curricula in the Arts and Sciences, Elementary Education, Home Economics, Agriculture, and Industrial Arts were established in 1932. In June 1934, the College graduated its first class of bachelor-degree candidates completing one of these four-year courses of study.

All of this academic growth culminated the College receiving its first provisional accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in 1944.

Throughout this period, the State College for Colored Students had four presidents. The first president of the college was Wesley P. Webb, whose tenure lasted from 1891-1895. He was followed by William C. Jason, whose tenure from 1895-1923 remains the longest of any president. Richard S. Grossley was president from 1923-1942, succeeded by Dr. Howard D. Gregg from 1942-1949.
From left to right, State College for Colored Students presidents: Wesley P. Webb, William C. Jason, Richard S. Grossley, and Dr. Howard D. Gregg.

For more information about the history of Delaware State, including a large number of wonderful pictures, come to the library and check out a copy of Delaware State University by Dr. Bradley Skelcher.

Come back next week for post 2 and learn about the institution after our name was changed to Delaware State College.


"History." Delaware State University. http://www.desu.edu/history (accessed January 10, 2014).

Skelcher, Bradley. Delaware State University. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishers, 2000. (accessed January 10, 2014).

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