Wayland Seminary

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Wayland Seminary was the Washington, D.C. school of the National Theological Institute.[1] The Institute was established beginning in 1865 by the American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS). At first designed primarily for providing education and training for African-American freedmen to enter into the ministry, it expanded its offerings to meet the educational demands of the former slave population. Just before the end of the 19th century, it was merged with its sister institution the Richmond Theological Seminary to form the current Virginia Union University at Richmond.

1865: plans to educate the freedmen[edit]

By late 1865, the American Civil War was over and slavery in the United States ended with the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, known as freedmen, millions of former African American slaves were without employable job skills, opportunities, and even literacy itself, (e.g., in Virginia, since the bloody Nat Turner Rebellion in 1831, it had been unlawful to teach a slave to read).

Some realized that these newly freed people were in need of educational opportunities Members of the American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS) proposed a "National Theological Institute" (NTI) which would educate those wishing to enter into the Baptist ministry.[2] Soon, the proposed mission was expanded to offer courses and programs at college, high school and even preparatory levels, to both men and women.

1867–1897: Washington, D.C.[edit]

Separate branches were set up in Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia. (Another school, the Augusta Institute, now Morehouse College, also received the support of the NTI.) Classes began in both cities by 1867. In Washington, classes were held in the basement of the First Colored Baptist Church of Washington, D.C. (the church was later renamed the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church ).[3] The classes which eventually developed into a school became known as Wayland Seminary. The school was named in commemoration of Dr. Francis Wayland, former president of Brown University and a leader in the anti-slavery struggle. The first and only president was Dr. George Mellen Prentiss King, who administered Wayland for thirty years (1867–97).[4]

Over the 30 years Dr. King led Wayland, the other branch of the originally planned National Theological Institute at Richmond had faced even greater challenges than Wayland; there, the first classes were actually held in a former "slave jail" building. However, the branch in Richmond had also grown into a substantial institution by 1897, and had become known as Richmond Theological Seminary.

1899: Merger to form Virginia Union University[edit]

During the 1890s plans were pushed forward to merge several ABHMS Institutions into one University, and by 1899 it was agreed that Wayland Seminary and Richmond Theological Seminary would come together to form Virginia Union University (VUU) at Richmond. Land for a new campus was purchased. Over 100 years later, VUU's 84-acre (340,000 m2) campus is still located there, at 1500 North Lombardy Street in Richmond's North Side.

Famous students of Wayland Seminary[edit]

Students at Wayland between 1867 and 1897 included a number of individuals who became famous African American citizens of the United States. These include:


  1. ^ Virginia Union University (1865- ) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed
  3. ^ Logan, Rayford (1968). Howard University: The first hundred years 1867–1967, New York University Press, ISBN 0814702635.
  4. ^ Virginia Union University | History