At 100, TSU has rich legacy

Carter G. Woodson began Negro History Week in 1926. Observed during February in honor of the births of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, it expanded to the entire month in 1976.

Black History Month is a special time to laud the achievements — both past and present — of African-Americans. This year holds special significance for Woodson, who, 100 years ago, became the second African-American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard University. Similarly, the city of Nashville can be especially proud this Black History Month, as its own Tennessee State University celebrates its centennial.

From its perch between Centennial Boulevard and Jefferson Street, the Agricultural and Industrial State Normal School opened its first summer session on June 19, 1912. The opening was the culmination of a tireless, three-year effort by the all-black Normal, Agricultural and Mechanical College Association — led by community leaders Ben Carr, Henry Allen Boyd and James Carroll Napier — to have the state’s first and only public center for the higher education of blacks located in Nashville. Guided by its first president, William J. Hale, and a faculty composed of graduates from many of the nation’s leading liberal-arts colleges, the normal school grew to a college of national repute by 1933.

A decade later, Hale passed his leadership to TSU alumnus Walter S. Davis. With his “Touch of Greatness,” Davis began working to transform the college into a “strong A-class university.” In 1951, the college was granted university status and in 1958, was fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Concurrently, Davis committed to athletic excellence by hiring legendary coaches John A. Merritt, John McClendon and Edward “Ed” Temple, who produced internationally renowned athletes such as Wilma Rudolph, Ralph Boston, Wyomia Tyus, Edith McGuire Duvall and Chandra Cheeseborough.

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