Friday, March 11, 2016

Gems From the Black Press: Remembering Eckstein Norton University

This article is part of a series  of articles whose purpose is to share each week an interesting article from early black publications of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As previously noted,the articles found inside of these long forgotten publications contain rich history that reflect  the early years of African America life in the first decades of freedom. Some are publications of fraternal or benevolent societies, and some were more community based. All  pieces shared in this series provide a close up to history and culture of times long past.

Today's Focus
Ohio Falls Express, Louisville KentuckyJuly 11, 1891
Advertisement for Eckstein Norton University

One of the things I like about old newspapers are the classified ads. They reflect the ordinary business of the people, and from such ads, one can find out about the products used by many in the community. In addition, one can learn about the people and the services that they offered and that they were seeking. Businesses are often reflected in those publications, as well as places of worship, and educational institutions. One such institution caught my attention, and it was one of which I had never heard before. The school was Eckstein Norton University, located in Louisville, Kentucky.

Source of Image: U.S., African American Newspapers, 1829-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors.Original data: Negro Newspapers for the American Council of Learned StudiesWashington, D.C.: The Library of Congress

Having worked in higher education for over 25 years, I recognize the names of many institutions including the numerous Historically Black Colleges & Universities or HBCUs as we call them. But what a surprise to see an institution that was never known to me, out of Kentucky. Eckstein Norton University based in Louisville.

An advertisement about the school appeared on the front page of the Ohio Falls Gazette on July 11,1891.

Eckstein Norton University was located at Cane Springs, in Bullitt County Kentucky. The school was founded in 1890 in a hostile community that had never accepted the concept of "colored" schools. The first schools for Freedmen established by the Freedmen's Bureau were burned and the county continued to exhibit hostility towards any institution that would aid the population of newly freed slaves. The freedmen's school in Shepherdsville was continually threatened and in 1867 the Noble school was burned. According to resources at the University of Kentucky, small schools in Black churches were also burned. But the desire of former slaves to learn was strong, and prevailed. In spite of much public resistance against freed blacks at least eight schools did manage to prevail in the extremely hostile climate.

In 1890 Eckstein Norton was opened. It was named for the president of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, who had donated funds for the school.The school was located along the Bardstown branch of the railroad, and consisted of seven buildings. The academic program offered a primary school, a normal school and a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree. degree program. (1)

In 1911 it was decided to merge Eckstein Norton University with Lincoln Institute and the school closed officially in 1912.

Only a few images remain of the school, and the exact location of the school is not state on the few sites devoted to its brief history. But the advertisement itself reveals much about the school and its location and the kind of environment that it provided for the students.

Unfortunately, Eckstein Norton University had a short history. The institution merged with Lincoln Institute in 1912 and this small institution closed it's doors.

Additional Information on Eckstein Norton University:


Jari Honora said...

Great find! While I too had never heard of Eckstein Norton University, I instantly recognized the name of its "co-founder and first Chancellor," Dr. William J. Simmons, who was the president and namesake of what became Simmons College of Kentucky. I first learned of Dr. Simmons through his biographical encyclopedia, Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive, Rising. It is a wonderful source for tracing black male leaders in the late nineteenth century.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I currently own the property that this college stood on. Unfortunately it was torn down several years ago. You can still find some bricks and a few large stones that may have been a foundation but most were buried and covered. It was a shame. I have found the history surrounding this building to be addicting. I have spent countless hours trying to research and find information. We purchased the property from a woman that had lived there as a child. It had been in her family since the 40s. Unfortunately she has since passed away.