The Role of Stillman College in Alabama’s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

Stillman College: From Sunday School to Civil Rights delves into the nuanced historical trajectory of Stillman College, originally established as Stillman Institute in 1876. Founded by white Presbyterians at Tuscaloosa's First Presbyterian Church, the institution commenced as a Sunday School for Negroes and later transitioned into Salem Presbyterian Church, emphasizing the training of black ministers.

The college subsequently underwent significant growth, expanding its campus, attaining accreditation in 1949, and witnessing the appointment of Harold N. Stinson as its first African American president in 1967. Notably, Stillman College also played a role in the civil rights movement, with students actively engaging in demonstrations and rallies.

This exploration offers a comprehensive understanding of Stillman College's evolution and its pivotal involvement in the civil rights era.

Key Takeaways

  • Stillman College was founded in 1876 as Stillman Institute by white Presbyterians at Tuscaloosa's First Presbyterian Church.
  • The college expanded its campus and facilities over the years, including the purchase of the former Cochrane plantation house and the construction of Winsborough Hall for women.
  • Stillman Institute added a secondary school, a junior college division, and received accreditation in 1949 to become Stillman College.
  • The college experienced leadership changes, with Reverend O.B. Wilson being killed by lightning, and Harold N. Stinson becoming the first African American president in 1967.

Founding of Stillman Institute

Founded in 1876 as Stillman Institute, the institution was established by white Presbyterians at Tuscaloosa's First Presbyterian Church. Charles Allen Stillman, the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, proposed a training school for black ministers. It began as a Sunday School for Negroes and later evolved into Salem Presbyterian Church. The seminary opened in 1876 with Stillman and one assistant teaching various subjects.

In 1899, it opened a secondary school and admitted its first women students. The curriculum included vocational and practical skills, such as farming methods. In 1927, it added a junior college division, and in 1949, it received accreditation and became Stillman College.

This evolution from a humble Sunday School to a recognized college reflects its commitment to education and the community.

Campus Development and Expansion

The expansion of Stillman College's campus and facilities began with the purchase of the former Cochrane plantation house and 20 acres of land in 1898, marking the institution's growth and commitment to providing a conducive learning environment. Over the years, the college has continued to develop its campus, incorporating planned renovations and preserving historical landmarks. The campus expansion has seen the addition of new facilities such as Winsborough Hall, a dormitory for women, and a gymnasium, alongside a prayer chapel and additional residence halls. The college has also taken steps to preserve its historical heritage by integrating the marble columns from the Cochrane home into the façade of Stillman College's Sheppard Library, ensuring that the institution's rich history remains an integral part of its modern development.

Planned Renovations Historical Landmarks Campus Development
Upcoming remodel of student center Preservation of Cochrane plantation house columns Addition of new residence halls

Accreditation and Evolution to Stillman College

During its evolution into Stillman College, the institution achieved accreditation in 1949, marking a pivotal juncture in its academic growth and development. This achievement came after facing several accreditation challenges, including meeting rigorous standards and demonstrating the quality of its programs.

The college's curriculum development played a crucial role in this accreditation, as it expanded to include vocational and practical skills, such as farming methods, reflecting the institution's commitment to holistic education.

The accreditation in 1949 was a significant milestone, signifying the institution's commitment to academic excellence and paving the way for its transformation into Stillman College.

  1. Meeting rigorous standards
  2. Demonstrating the quality of its programs
  3. Expanding the curriculum to include vocational and practical skills

Leadership and Presidents

Reverend O. B. Wilson served as the superintendent of Stillman Institute before his untimely death, followed by subsequent leaders who shaped the institution's trajectory.

Samuel Burney Hay, president from 1948 to 1965, oversaw the college's transition to a four-year institution. His leadership significantly impacted the college's progress and expansion.

Following him, Harold N. Stinson became the first African American president, focusing on the institution's development until 1980.

Cordell Wynn, who took office in 1982, concentrated on increasing enrollment and expanding facilities, further impacting the college's growth.

These presidents played crucial roles in guiding Stillman College through transitions and contributing to its evolution into a prominent educational institution.

Their leadership and vision have left a lasting impact on education and the college's trajectory.

Student Activism During Civil Rights Era

Amid the civil rights era, student activism at Stillman College played a significant role in advocating for societal change. The campus was a hotbed for student protests and campus activism, with students actively participating in rallies and demonstrations. Notable instances of student activism during the civil rights era at Stillman College included:

  1. Support for Vivian Malone and James Hood as they registered for summer school at the University of Alabama in 1963.
  2. Student demonstrations in the 1960s, which culminated in a group of Stillman students occupying Hay College Center.
  3. President Stinson's response, turning off water and electric power to the building, ultimately leading the students to end the occupation.

These events reflect the pivotal role Stillman College students played in advocating for civil rights and societal change during this transformative era.

Legacy and Impact

The legacy and impact of Stillman College extend beyond its founding as a Sunday School for Negroes, encompassing significant contributions to education and civil rights activism.

The college's impact on education is evident through its evolution from a Sunday School to an accredited college, offering diverse academic programs and vocational skills.

Stillman College's community involvement is reflected in its students' participation in civil rights demonstrations, supporting the integration of the University of Alabama and advocating for equal rights.

Additionally, the college's role in the civil rights era demonstrates its commitment to societal progress. President Stinson's decision to construct the Harold N. Stinson Math and Science Center symbolizes the college's dedication to academic excellence and community development.

Stillman College's legacy and impact resonate through its ongoing commitment to education and community engagement.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Were the Specific Vocational and Practical Skills Taught at Stillman Institute's Secondary School Division?

The vocational and practical skills taught at Stillman Institute's secondary school division included agriculture, farming methods, and other practical trades. The curriculum had a significant impact, leading to program expansion and the accreditation of the high school division in 1929.

How Did the Transition to a Four-Year Institution Impact the Curriculum and Programs at Stillman College?

The transition to a four-year institution at Stillman College significantly impacted the curriculum and programs, leading to enhanced education and program expansion. This change facilitated broader community involvement and provided students with a more comprehensive academic experience.

What Were the Specific Goals and Strategies Implemented by President Cordell Wynn to Increase Enrollment and Expand Facilities?

President Cordell Wynn implemented aggressive enrollment strategies by establishing partnerships with businesses and community organizations. He focused on expanding facilities by acquiring additional land and securing funding for new construction projects. Wynn also enhanced the curriculum to include more vocational skills.

What Were the Long-Term Effects of the Student Demonstrations and Activism During the Civil Rights Era on Stillman College's Campus and Community?

The student demonstrations and activism during the civil rights era had a profound impact on Stillman College, shaping its campus culture and student empowerment. These events also influenced community relations, fostering a legacy of social engagement and advocacy.

How Did the Legacy of Stillman Institute's Founding as a Sunday School for Negroes Influence the College's Mission and Values in Later Years?

The legacy of Stillman Institute's founding as a Sunday School for Negroes influenced the college's mission and values by emphasizing vocational skills and practical education. This foundation guided the institution's focus on enrollment expansion and campus activism.


The remarkable evolution of Stillman College from a humble Sunday School for Negroes to a pivotal institution in the civil rights movement is a testament to the tenacity and resilience of its founders, leaders, and students.

The college's legacy is etched in the annals of history, serving as a beacon of hope and progress for generations to come. Its unwavering commitment to equality and justice has left an indelible mark on the fabric of American society.

Our Reader’s Queries

What did the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee do?

SNCC aimed to organize nonviolent, direct-action movements led by young people against segregation and other types of racism. SNCC members were crucial in sit-ins, Freedom Rides, the 1963 March on Washington, and voter education projects like the Mississippi Freedom Summer.

Is the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee still active?

After an unsuccessful attempt to merge with the Black Panther Party in 1968, SNCC disbanded.

Which right was fought for by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee?

The 1965 voting rights protests in Selma, Alabama, ignited heated arguments within SNCC. Some members questioned the group’s dedication to peaceful methods and inclusion of white activists, leading to intense ideological rifts.

When did SNCC disband?

In July 1967, SNCC’s yearly earnings plummeted after white members were forced out. By 1970, SNCC had to let go of all 130 staff members and most of their branches. In 1973, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ceased to exist.

Check Out For More References

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *