Our current blog series on HBCUs represented in the Amistad Research Center’s school newspaper collection shows, collectively, the integral role they have played in educational history of the United States. We focus on specific colleges and universities that offer interesting insights into student life, events, and unique school histories. This week we highlight Prairie View A&M University.
Ever since its founding in 1876, Prairie View A&M University has been a part of a rich history of serving the educational demands of African Americans in Texas. It was the first state-supported school for African Americans in Texas, structured under the Morrill Act, which aimed to create colleges for the advancement of general scientific and industrial education. Originally called Alta Vista Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas for Colored Youth, it was named after the former plantation that was to serve as the grounds for the school. When the school formally organized three years later and began offering classes, the school’s name was changed to Prairie View State Normal College. The curriculum was that of a Normal School, designed as an institution for the training of teachers. It originally offered classes in geography, arithmetic, grammar, and reading. To keep up with the demands of an increasingly diverse student body, the school soon expanded courses in the arts & sciences, home economics, agriculture, mechanical arts, and nursing. In the shaping and re-shaping the school, it would go through several name changes – Prairie View State Normal & Industrial College, Prairie View University, and Prairie View Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas – before adopting its current name of Prairie View A&M University.
The Amistad Research Center has 22 issues of the school’s newspaper, the Prairie View Standard, from 1931 to 1936, published under its name at the time, the Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College. As the official organ of the school, it contains school announcements, op-eds written by the school’s faculty, and articles on the state of African American education. In the title story of one issue from October 1931 (the earliest issue of the newspaper held in our collections), notable educator James Hardy Dillard gives an account of a (presumably) fictitious student named George and the benefits he will gain from his education at Prairie View. In another issue, the school joyously announces the donation of a hospital to the college and the organization of its School of Nursing Education. Even during the Great Depression, the newspaper shows a school that is expanding in a multitude of ways.
As Texas’ first state-supported college (and later university) for African Americans, its history becomes the record of the state’s backing in the support of African American education. The Prairie View Standard adds to that record with its own unique personality.
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