711 Rosborough Springs Road, Marshall, Harrison County, Texas
Geographical Coordinates: 32.537041, -94.376844 (new campus); 32.521692, -94.377228 (old campus)
Travel Guide Listing(s): 1947 Green Book, Chauffeur’s Travel Bureau Guide (no date)
Historical Listing(s): Wiley College (OTHM 14241)
- 1873 established Wiley College
- 1880 moved to new campus
- 1882 chartered
- 1893 appointed first Black president Rev. Isaiah Scott
- 1907 Carnegie Library built on campus
- 1935 Wiley College debate team wins national championship
- 1944 Wiley becomes a member of the United Negro College Fund
History of Wiley College
The Freedmen’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church established Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, in 1873. After an inspiring medical missionary trip to China, Reverend Dr. Isaac William Wiley (1825-1884) returned to the United States in 1854. He served as a minister in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania hoping to rise through the ranks of the United Methodist Church. The 1872 Methodist Episcopal Church General Counsel elected Wiley to the episcopacy. As bishop, he was one of the founders of Wiley College in Marshall. Bishop Wiley was not only the driving force for the creation of Wiley College, but later became the vice president and president of the Freedmen’s Aid Society, spearheading several other medical and educational initiatives during his lifetime.
The Freedmen’s Aid Society was instrumental in setting up more than seventy schools for newly freed African American men and women. Initially organized in Cincinnati, Ohio in August of 1866, the Society sought to bring “relief and education to the freedmen.” In addition, “the society reminded Christians that, although Civil War had ended slavery, much work was still ahead if the struggle to uplift freedmen was to succeed.” As a result, Wiley College’s commitment to Black education reflects the Freedmen’s Aid Society’s mission. The college’s primary focus centered on the access to higher learning for formerly enslaved people, especially in the arts and sciences, to better prepare them for their new lives as American citizens. Most specifically, Wiley College focused on training the next generation of Black teachers in Texas. Wiley College was the first Freemen’s Aid Society college west of the Mississippi River.
Harrison County had a large population of formerly enslaved residents and, as a result, Wiley College flourished. With humble beginnings, Wiley College ran initially from two frame buildings on the southwest side of Marshall, near today’s Wiley College Cemetery on Rosborough Springs Road. However, by 1880, the college moved to a larger plot of land closer to Marshall, eventually erecting four more buildings while instructing over 160 students and employing full-time faculty members. Despite the development of Wiley College as an African American institute of higher education, Wiley College’s first president, F. C. Moore, was white, and the school had an all-white faculty and staff. This “all-white policy” remained in effect for the institution’s first twenty years until the appointment of Reverend Isaiah B. Scott in 1893 as Wiley’s first Black president.
Academically, the campus formed a curriculum consisting of mechanics, printing, tailoring, broom making, woodworking, and other industrial programs. The campus also introduced the King Industrial Home for Girls, cultivating a widely sought-after home economics program. Under Dr. Matthew W. Dogan’s leadership (1896-1942), the “Wiley Method” was used, which applied a combined academic and technical program for scholastic experience and practical training. This was broadly copied by other HBCUs. It was under Dogan’s tenure that the college received a Carnegie Foundation grant to build a library in 1907. In 1935, led by Professor Melvin Tolson, Wiley College’s debate team won national acknowledgment when it defeated the all-white defending national champions, the University of Southern California; this historic event later was the inspiration for the 2007 movie “The Great Debaters.” Wiley College is esteemed in its commitment to civil action, as many notable attendees took part in major civil rights organizations, such as the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and held sit-ins at various stores in downtown Marshall. A former Wiley student co-founded CORE, James Farmer, Jr., pictured right in 1963, and he later would receive the Presidential Medal of Honor from President Clinton in 1998 for his civil rights efforts. For more information on Farmer, click this link for a THC-produced video.
Today, Wiley College prides itself on its learning environment and ability to embrace principles of freedom and tolerance for all. The college was also the first “ThinkPad College” west of the Mississippi River, affording its students a computer laptop to use in their classrooms for daily activities. Beyond its pioneering efforts technologically, Wiley College is still a beacon of light for its community and remains a pillar in Black education in Texas.
"Go Forth Inspired"
For citations used for this webpage: Wiley College citations.
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