Ignoring the ethos of mid-19th century America, Black and white clergy in Ohio boldly presented a plan to educate the progeny of enslaved Africans. The result was the founding of Wilberforce University, the nation’s first private, historically Black university. Named for British abolitionist, William Wilberforce, the institution was the first university in the nation founded, owned, and operated by people of African descent.
At that time in the United States, anti-literacy laws forbade people of African descent from being taught to read and write. After Wilberforce was founded in 1856, slaveowners brought their mixed-race children to Ohio to be educated at the university. The Civil War and a fire closed its doors for a while, but those first students set a precedence for a history that, 166 years later, still defies challenges and rises to educate students of promise.
Our history and legacy prove that Wilberforce University’s founders audaciously believed in the power of education to provide people of African descent the opportunity to claim their place in the evolving American dream. The founding of Wilberforce was also affirmation of the ability of formerly enslaved persons to actively engage in intellectual and artistic pursuits and the habits of the mind like all civilized peoples. This early model of educational intention was central to the mission of Wilberforce University and continues to influence our contemporary mission to provide access to a college education for bright, talented students of promise who are often marginalized. Solidly rooted in their Christian faith and principles, the founders knew that securing an education released the bridled talent that shapes Black America today.
Despite the challenges and in spite of the times, Wilberforce University stands at the forefront of the development of HBCUs and was an early and important cultural reservoir, guardian, and curator of the African American experience in America. From educational giants like Frederick Douglass and WEB DuBois who walked these sacred halls to the single letter chapters of the Divine Nine…WU started this!
To secure the future of this great institution, we must support the needs of our university which remain ever present. Our goal is to raise $5 Million by June 30, 2023, to benefit the following needs of our students and university community:
- $1M Capital:
- Residence Hall Upgrades
- Academic Facilities such as Laboratories, Classrooms, etc.
- $2.5M General Operating Support
- Deferred Maintenance
- $1.5M Programmatic:
- $1M Academic support, CASSS, Library, Student Engagement,
- $500K The WU Fine Arts Program
- $250k Wilberforce University Hounds of Sound
- $250K Wilberforce University Music Program
Since 1856 Wilberforce University has been a force for social change. Our founding story demonstrates the boldness that runs through the veins of the institution today. We commit to our community, our students, and our nation to continue the legacy of “Angelic Disruption” that remains an integral part of our institutional identity and purpose.
We will teach our students to harness their life experiences to create social change and to challenge the social constructs that often marginalize Black and Brown people so they might create a stronger, more just, and inclusive America for all Americans.
We will teach our students the power of economic literacy. We will ensure they are exposed to opportunities to discover their passion while understanding the economic, social, political, and cultural systems that keep America functioning. Our students will learn the tenets of entrepreneurship, so they are equipped with the knowledge, skill, and mindset needed to lift not only themselves and their families, but Black America overall.
We will provide our students with a strong academic curriculum which exposes them to an intellectual canon, methods of intellectual inquiry and critical thinking. The Wilberforce academic experience will also connect our students to businesses and mentors and create relationships that will ensure their success in shaping them to be prepared and confident in all settings.
We will teach our students to love and value themselves and God. They will leave our University knowing that their identity, race, and culture are beautiful, powerful, and God ordained. They will know that with self-love and reverence for their Creator, they are unstoppable, unmovable & unshakeable.
We ask that you generously share in the reverence we have for our past and the bold goals we have for our future. Please make a meaningful donation to Wilberforce University today. Because WU started this, and our journey knows no end.
Other Ways to Give
Send a check or money order made payable to: Wilberforce University
Attn: Office of Institutional Advancement
1055 N. Bickett Rd.
P.O. Box 1001
Wilberforce, OH 45384
Memo Section: WU Started This
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