Our current blog series focuses on HBCUs in our school newspaper collection. We highlight each school’s history and the role they played in providing education in their respective communities. This week we will highlight the story of Alcorn State University, as told through their newspaper, the Greater Alcorn Herald. The Amistad Research Center holds nine issues ranging from 1932 to 1955 in our School Newspaper Collection, but first, a short history of Alcorn State.
As the oldest public black land-grant institution in the United States, Alcorn’s story begins during Reconstruction, when the Mississippi state government sought to create a place of education for formerly enslaved people and their descendants. The state purchased land previously occupied by the Presbyterian Church-run Oakland College, just outside of Lorman, MS, in 1871 to establish such a school. The school was named Alcorn University, after the sitting governor James L. Alcorn. Soon after, Alcorn University became Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (or Alcorn A&M).
The Amistad holds nine issues over a twenty year period. The articles and reporting throughout the issues are wide-ranging and sometimes eclectic. The newspapers have their fair share of humorous quips and historical facts relating to Alcorn’s history sprinkled through the issues. Some stories focus on the school’s academics and sports, while others highlight specific members of the student body. The earlier issues we have in our holdings, coming from the 1930s, include reprints from other HBCU newspapers and feature “gossip” on the student body. It seems to reflect a very small interconnected atmosphere on the school campus and with similar schools across the South. In the January 1932 issue of the Greater Alcorn Herald, the earliest in our collection, the front page features an article about Alcornites pursuing professional courses at Meharry Medical College. Also in the issue is a parody prayer, “23rd psalm of the Flunkers,” which had been originally printed in the Prairie View College newspaper, an HBCU established around the same time in Texas.
One very special mention comes from the March 1954 issue of the Greater Alcorn Herald. In the wake of the Brown v. Board decision, a 1952 Alcorn graduate challenges the Mississippi University system by applying to the Law school at the University of Mississippi at Oxford. The article, titled “Recent Graduate Applies for Admission to Ole Miss,” talks about Medgar Evers, an Alcorn alumnus and resident of Mound Bayou, MS, who filed an application to Ole Miss to test enforcement of the Supreme Court decision to integrate public schools. Thurgood Marshall, who at that time worked as special counsel for the NAACP legal team, represented Evers during the admissions process. Evers’ application was rejected due to his race, but his action set the stage for the eventual integration of the school in 1962.
The School Newspaper Collection has so many hidden gems. They represent an often over-looked part of the historical record. But as we look through the issues and schools in our collection and as you read about it in our blog series, it is easy to see how important these original materials are. The School Newspaper Collection is a part of the Amistad’s library collection and can be found via Tulane’s Library Catalog.
Images from the School Newspaper Collection. Images from Amistad’s website, newsletters, and blogs cannot be reproduced without permission.