Berea College is Central to Black History

Carter Godwin Woodson (December 19, 1875 – April 3, 1950) was a noted African-American historian, author, and journalist. Born in New Canton, Virginia, he graduated from Berea College in 1903 and later attended the University of Chicago. He completed his PhD in history at Harvard University in 1912, only the second African American to earn a doctorate.

Woodson was a scholar of African-American history and the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. He established The Journal of Negro History in 1915. Woodson become known as the father of black history for launching the celebration of “Negro History Week” in 1926. It was the precursor of Black History Month.

Berea College’s Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education was established as an important entity in the College’s continuing mission to promote the transformative power of education and social inclusion. Within this historical context, the College honors the memory of this important Berea College alumnus who quite literally changed the face of American history. More information at: https://www.berea.edu/cgwc/

John Gregg Fee (September 9, 1816 – January 11, 1901) was a Southern abolitionist, minister, and educator. Although born into a slave-holding family in Bracken County, Kentucky, Fee’s Christian beliefs eventually led him to oppose slavery on moral grounds. He sought to establish a church, a school, and a community that would welcome blacks and white, women and men, as social equals.

Founded in 1855, Berea College became the first interracial and coeducational school in the U.S. South. Fee found sympathizing support from individuals in the immediate region, but planters with large holdings of lands and slaves in the northern part of the county were less welcoming. Despite repeated threats and severe beatings from mobs on many occasions, Fee continued to promote his antislavery views and his “Gospel of impartial love.” Then, in December 1859, sixty planters collaborated to drive Fee and his co-workers out of the state. Not only would his life’s work be disrupted, Fee and his wife Mathilda suffered the loss of their youngest son, Tappan, who died of exposure on their flight from Kentucky.

As the American Civil War raged, Fee worked nearby at Camp Nelson, Kentucky, a Union recruiting and supply station, advocating construction of facilities to support freedmen and their families, providing them with education and preaching while the men were being taught to be soldiers.

By 1866, Fee was able to return to Berea and reopen his school, which by 1869 had become known as Berea College. Until the Day Law, outlawing integrated education in Kentucky, went into effect in 1904, Berea College functioned as the only racially integrated college in the South.

Throughout his life, Fee continued to advocate for racial equality. Today, Berea College continues to live out Fee’s commitment of “impartial love” to “all peoples of the earth.”

More information at: https://www.berea.edu/about/history/