March 11, 1878 students enroll in first college for blacks known today as Prairie View A&M University.

In 1876, the Fifteenth Texas Legislature, consistent with terms of the federal Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act, which provided public lands for the establishment of colleges, authorized an “Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Benefit of Colored Youth” as part of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University).[1] Governor Richard Hubbard appointed a three-man commission, including Ashbel Smith, a long-time supporter of public education. The Commissioners bought Alta Vista Plantation, near Hempstead in Waller County, Texas for $15,000, and turned the school over to the A&M board. Texas A&M President Thomas S. Gathright selected L. W. Minor of Mississippi as the first principal, and on March 11, 1878, eight young African-American men enrolled in the short-lived Alta Vista Agricultural College. They were charged tuition of $130 which included nine months of instruction, board, and one uniform.[1] In 1879, as the institution was struggling to find resources to continue, Governor Oran Roberts suggested closing the college. But Barnas Sears, an agent for the Peabody Fund, persuaded the Sixteenth Texas Legislature to issue charters two normal schools for the training of teachers, one of which would be called Prairie View Normal Institute. The Texas A&M College board met at Hempstead in August 1879, and established thirteen elementary and secondary subjects, and founded the coeducational institution. Women were housed in the plantation house called Kirby Hall (no longer exists), and boys were housed in a combination chapel-dormitory called Pickett Hall. Among the first faculty appointed to the new normal school was E. H. Anderson. In 1882, a strong storm damaged Pickett Hall. This came at the same time as state funds ran out. State Comptroller William M. Brown refused to continue paying the school’s debts from the state’s university fund, so Governor Roberts had to solicit money from merchants. E. H. Anderson died in 1885, and his brother L. C. Anderson became the principal of Prairie View. A longstanding dispute as to the mission of the school was resolved in 1887 when the legislature added an agricultural and mechanical department, thus returning the college to its original mission.[1] Historian Dr. George Wolfok wrote, Prairie View, A Study In Public Conscience 1962) “Prairie View is an institution—a public institution. But an institution is an empty thing without the beating hearts and yearning souls of mortal men. And down the seventy-five years of Prairie View’s existence, men have lived and dreamed here until every blade of grass and every rock, in that wise primordial way in which the primitive earth knows and cares, has joined the choir invisible to bless their memory. For every man whose foot has touched this hallowed soil, has found a spirit, and has broadened and deepened it until what started out as an ambitionless meandering stream has become a purposeful river upon whose tide, now turbulent, now tranquil, floats the destiny of countless human hopes and dreams.”

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