John Gregg Fee (1816-1901) was born into a slaveholding family in Bracken County, Kentucky. He attended college for two years in Oxford, Ohio and graduated from Augusta College in Augusta, Kentucky. Kentucky Methodist abolitionists James and Arthur Thome founded Augusta College. Fee received his theological training at Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio.
In 1855, John Gregg Fee (1816-1901) established Berea College. This happened during a period of time of:
- The backdrop of the Mexican American War,
- Passage of the Missouri Compromise, which authorized and funded the Fugitive Slave Law,
- Formation of the Republican Party for the abolition of slavery and
- Plains Indians ceding their lands in exchange for a reservation system.
Fee and other Berea College founders believed that opposing slavery without opposing the American caste system would continue to breed social inequality. From its founding, the college was an anomaly — an interracial, co-educational, cohabitating institution, opposed to slavery and caste within an antebellum, slaveholding South. To break the system of caste, the school founders committed themselves to providing a church and free education to all. Fee based his argument for inclusive education on a strict understanding of the Christian gospel. In 1847, he published an antislavery manual in Maysville, Kentucky. His writing advocated the oneness of the entire human race. This was an extremely controversial belief in his day, in which he stated “God hath made of one blood all nations of men.”