Central State University is Ohio’s only public historically black university (HBCU) and one of a few HBCUs in the Midwest. It is one of the 13 state-assisted universities in the Ohio University System. Central State’s historic mission is the education of African Americans; however, the institution, in accordance with its founding charter, has always been open to all qualified students, regardless of race.
Central State originally began as a department within Wilberforce University, an HBCU founded in 1856. The initial focus was on vocational and teacher education. For many years, Central State operated as part of Wilberforce, but with a separate board of trustees. In September of 1853, the Cincinnati Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church appointed a committee on the “Elevation of Colored People.” This led to the endorsement to create a university. In 1856 The Ohio African University was opened at a site in Wilberforce, Ohio (Tawawa Woods). By 1862 the school closed, but in March 1862, Bishop Daniel Payne of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church decided that the Wilberforce location was suitable for the AME Union Seminary. In 1863 the AME Church reopened the school as Wilberforce University, named in honor of William Wilberforce, one of the leading proponents in the United Kingdom for abolishing the trade in humans or the slave trade. Wilberforce was one of the first Black-administered universities in the country, and the only one in Ohio that had as its primary mission the education of Black Americans.
J. A. Brown and Benjamin Arnett, members of the Ohio General Assembly, were instrumental in 1887 in getting the Ohio General Assembly to agree that it was in the State’s interest to educate all Ohio citizens, not just those of a certain color, or income level. Thus, in 1887 the General Assembly issued a Charter that created the Combined Normal and Industrial Department at Wilberforce University. The new department’s primary purpose was to provide teacher training and vocational education to African Americans, but it was “open to all qualified applicants of good and moral character.” The separate, state-funded department grew in size and scope until it separated from Wilberforce University in 1947, becoming the College of Education and Industrial Arts at Wilberforce. In 1949, the College of Education and Industrial Arts at Wilberforce gained full accreditation by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges and became the sixth member of the Ohio Inter-University Council. The name was changed in 1951 to Central State College, and in 1965, the institution achieved university status.
CSU 1890 Development
Central State had sought land-grant status since 1890 when the federal government designated the first set of HBCUs as land-grant colleges. According to Lathardus, 1987, “Central State’s original claim was based on federal legislation passed in 1890 to supplement funds made available by the Morrill Act of 1862 for the creation of public agriculture and mechanical colleges. Known as the second Morrill Act, the 1890 legislation appropriated $25,000 per annum for the further support of colleges established under the earlier law. The driving forces behind the second Morrill Act were the National Association of Land Grant Colleges and individual institutions (such as The Ohio State University) which had developed out of the 1862 law. Special provision was made, however, for the nation’s black public colleges, which were not included in the Morrill Act of 1862, but were involved in mechanical and agricultural studies. In 1890, state Senator W. T. Wallace introduced a bill, to be taken up immediately upon reconvening in 1891, acting the funds made available by the second Morrill Act and granting them to The Ohio State University. Soon after, Wilberforce’s President Mitchell, with consent of the faculties and trustees of both Wilberforce and the state-funded Combined Normal and Industrial Department, announced an intention to fight the Wallace bill. He proposed instead an equal division of funds between The Ohio State University and the Combined Normal and Industrial Department under the terms of the Pugh clause” (p.p. 8-15).
The Ohio Senate passed legislation in 1892 that would have given Central State the funding; however, the Ohio House, at the urging of former president and OSU Trustee Rutherford B. Hayes, reversed course and gave the funds to OSU instead. In early 1891 legislative session, “Wallace amended his bill in response to pressure from Wilberforce and its friends to provide that half of the federal funds be given to the state-funded Combined Normal and Industrial Department. The question of a division of the funds split the legislature deeply during the early weeks of debate. The upper house seemed nearly unanimous in its approval of the amended Wallace bill on March 18, and went so far as to approve, by a twenty-five to four margin, the creation of an agricultural department for the Combined Normal and Industrial Department in order that it might more strictly reflect the type of institution desired by the second Morrill Act. Senate Democrats and Republicans, in almost equal numbers and representing constituencies all over the state, voted in favor of the Wilberforce claim. As the lack of party and sectional alignments would suggest, rather than an organized movement to turn back the tide of integrated education in Ohio, the vote reflected a mixture of motives and perCEStions” (Lathardus, p.p. 8-15).
In June of 2012 Chris Widener and Eric Kearney introduced a similar resolution in the Ohio Senate to give Central State its long-awaited land-grant status. The Ohio House of Representatives approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 30, a resolution sponsored by State Senator Chris Widener (R- Springfield) and Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney (D- Cincinnati) that would designate Central State University as Ohio's second Land Grant Institution under the Morrill Act of 1890. "One hundred and twenty years ago the General Assembly nearly made this designation, but stopped short due to a squabble over $25,000 in federal funding. A unanimous approval by the Ohio Senate and the House Education Committee, the Ohio House of Representatives passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 30 by a vote of 84-1. On January 29, 2014, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge (OH-11), senior members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees and members of the Farm Bill Conference Committee, announced that Central State University was added to a distinguished list of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) focused on expanding opportunities for agricultural research and education, commonly referred to as “1890 Universities.” The Central State provision was the result of a coalition that included Beatty, Turner, Brown and Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Cleveland. Brown and Fudge are members of the joint House-Senate committee that put together the compromise farm bill. The designation as a land grant institution will provide more resources to Central State, which will enable increases to teaching and research capacity in areas of science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and math (STEAM) and enlarge our outreach and support to the surrounding area.