Copyright notice

This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Is anything in this article factually incorrect? Please submit a comment.

Printer-friendly page

Shaw University

Ceramics class at Shaw University, 1954. Courtesy of North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh. The Raleigh News and Observer files.Shaw University, founded in Raleigh in 1865, was the first African American institution of higher learning in the South and one of the first in the nation. The university had its beginnings in December 1865, when Henry Martin Tupper, a white educator from Monson, Mass., started a class in theology for the purpose of teaching former slaves how to read and interpret the Bible. From this class evolved the Raleigh Institute (1866), later changed to Shaw Collegiate Institute (1870) and finally incorporated as Shaw University (1875). The school was named for its foremost benefactor, Elijah Shaw of Wales, Mass. The private, Baptist-affiliated liberal arts institute has always been open to both men and women. This coeducational status was assured with the construction in 1873 of Estey Hall, the first dormitory in the nation devoted exclusively to housing African American women.

Shaw University graduated its first college class in 1878, its first medical school class in 1882, its first law class in 1890, and its first pharmacy class in 1893. The school also had a normal (high school) department, which was changed to the Education Department in 1909. With the discontinuation of the normal department and professional schools (between 1909 and 1926), Shaw became the first African American institution in the South to be devoted exclusively to college and theological work.

Estey Hall, Shaw University, Raleigh, NC, c.1873. From the General Negative Collection, North Carolina State Archives, call #:  N.68.10.44. Shaw has provided North Carolina with many educational leaders. North Carolina Central University, Elizabeth City State University, and Fayetteville State University were all founded by Shaw graduates, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University was housed at Shaw during its first year of operation. Shaw also developed one of the first black studies programs in the country.

In the early 2000s Shaw University enrolled more than 2,400 students in liberal arts and specialized degree programs. It has a strong international studies program, and its Center for Alternative Programs of Education allows students an opportunity to pursue academic degrees through independent study, flexible course scheduling, and credit for prior learning experiences.


Educator Resources:

Grades K-8:


Wilmoth A. Carter, Shaw's Universe (1973).

Clara Barnes Jenkins, "A Historical Study of Shaw University" (Ph.D. diss., University of Pittsburgh, 1965).

Joseph L. Peacock, "Our Colleges-Shaw University," Opportunity 1 (March 1923).

Additional Resources:

Shaw University:

Shaw University: The First Historically Black University in the South:

Estey Hall, National Park Service:

Image Credit:

Estey Hall, Shaw University, Raleigh, NC, c.1873. From the General Negative Collection, North Carolina State Archives, call #:  N.68.10.44. Available from (accessed November 14, 2012).

Origin - location: 



I am researching a prominent black physician who is believed to have received his medical degree at Shaw around 1888. The doctor's name is Jacob S. Allen, from Lancaster, South Carolina. He was my grandfather and I am building genealogy on him and the Allen family. I would appreciate your help with the project.
Thank you



I suggest you contact Shaw University's library Archives at

University archives and special collections often house alumni information and should be able to help.

Good luck!

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library


I am wondering is there a way to obtain a copy of Clara Barnes-Jenkins dissertation on Shaw University; she is my paternal aunt and I would like to know more about her work.



You would need to contact the school where the dissertation was submitted. 


Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library


Do you know if students at Shaw University (self)published a book in the 1960s in response to/as part of the civil rights movement?
Please share what you know. Thanks!



You may want to check with the Shaw university library as they would likely know. 

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library


I'm writing a historically based novel. My main character attends Shaw University in 1936. I'm wondering what degree programs were offered at that time? Specifically Engineering?


Dear Mr. McClain,

The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center has published quite a few Shaw University publications, including issues of the Shaw University Catalog. You can find the catalogs for the years 1931-1938 here:

There are a lot of pages here, but since you are immersed in this subject, I think you will not find it tedious to go through. Best of luck with your book.

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library


I am a professor of chemistry and teach chemistry in universities in Connecticut. I want to know if there is an opening for me in your school. I can teach any course in chemistry. I will send you my resume if you want.
Thank you.
Pradeep Gupte


Dear Pradeep,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia. You left your comment on an encyclopedia article about Shaw University, and NCpedia does not have any direct connecction with the school.  Here is a link to their website:

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at