Dr. Henry Martin Tupper, Founder and First President 1865-1893  

University , an institution of higher learning for African Americans (Negroes), was founded December 1, 1865, when a theological class was formed in the old Guion Hotel where the State Museum now stands. This class was formed by Dr. Henry Martin Tupper (Founder and First President of Shaw University) who was honorably discharged from the Union Army after serving for three years as a private and as a chaplain. On October 10, 1865, Dr. Tupper settled in Raleigh with his bride, Mrs. Sarah B. Tupper, and in December organized the class, which was to develop into Shaw University.

Shortly after the formation of the theological class, Dr. Tupper saw the need for expansion of his activities. With $500, which he had saved while in the Army, he purchased a lot at the corner of Blount and Cabarrus streets and there erected a two-storied wooden structure. With the help of a few faithful followers, he constructed this building from timber prepared from trees that they themselves had felled in the forest. The Raleigh Institute, as it was called, was one of the largest structures of its kind in the city. Monetary support for Shaw University was through the American Baptist Home Mission Society and The Freedman’s Bureau.

In 1870 the present site of Shaw University was purchased. It was then called the General Barringer Estate. In 1871 a building was begun on this land. When it was finished in1872 it was named Shaw Hall in honor of Mr. Elijah Shaw who gave the largest single contribution toward its erection. At the same time the name of the school was changed to Shaw Collegiate Institute. This remained until 1875 when the school was chartered and incorporated by the State of North Carolina under the name of Shaw University .

In 1866 on March 1, the first class for colored women was formed and has served both sexes since that time. Meanwhile, another building had been erected for the purpose of housing the girls who were seeking educational advantages at Shaw Collegiate Institute. This building was started in 1873 and was called Estey Hall in honor of Jacob Estey who contributed generously toward its erection. There followed a period of continued expansion and success for Shaw University .

During that time there were several buildings on campus: Estey Hall, Shaw Hall, the chapel, the Medical Dormitory, the Administration building, the Industrial building, laundry, the Leonard Medical building, hospital and Missionary Training building. The value of the property at that time was $167,000.00.  George P. Hart of Jacksonville , Florida was the first graduate of the Leonard School of Pharmacy in 1893 and Pearl R. Wasson was the first female graduate. The last graduating class from the School of Pharmacy was in 1918.           


  Jacob Estey                                                                                     Estey Hall

The Law School was founded in December 11, 1888 during a Board of Trustees’ meeting in New York. This would be the only Law School for coloreds from Washington to Texas or any portion of the South.   The school graduated fifty-four students before closing in 1914.  

Shaw University has had an educational impact nationally and internationally and still remains a coeducational Liberal Arts institution. Many early students came from Central and South America and Africa .  Some of the first Black college–trained missionaries were Shaw graduates. Shaw has many “firsts as leaders” who have helped gain renown for the University as a producer of Black leaders. Today Shaw, a culturally diverse institution still produces leaders in the twenty-first century. Shaw University lives up to the administrative motto:  Strides to Excellence, Only the Best!”.

         Carter, Wilmoth, A. (1973) Shaw’s Universe. Rockville , Maryland . D.C. Publishing, Inc. p. 1-229.

        Shaw University . (1874-1890) Shaw University Bulletin. Raleigh , North Carolina . Commercial Printing Company. 


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