Cheyney University of Pennsylvania
Founded in 1837 as the Institute for Colored Youth, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania is the oldest of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in America. The founding of Cheyney University was made possible by Richard Humphreys, a Quaker philanthropist who bequeathed, one tenth of his estate, (about $10,000) to design and establish a school to educate the descendants of the African race.
Born on a plantation in the West Indies, Richard Humphreys came to Philadelphia in 1764. Having witnessed the struggles of Africans who were brought to the Americas competing unsuccessfully for jobs due to the influx of immigrants, Humphreys became interested in their plight.
In 1829, race riots heightened in Philadelphia and other places where jobs were scarce and it was that year Richard Humphreys wrote his will and charged thirteen fellow Quakers to design an institution: “…to instruct the descendants of the African Race in school learning, in the various branches of the mechanic Arts, trades and Agriculture, in order to prepare and fit and qualify them to act as teachers…”
The school began in Philadelphia as the Institute for Colored Youth (ICY) and successfully provided free classical education for qualified young people. In 1902, the Institute moved to George Cheyney’s farm, 25 miles west of Philadelphia. In 1913, the name was changed to Cheyney State Teachers College; in 1921, the State Normal School at Cheyney; in 1959, Cheyney State College; and Cheyney University of Pennsylvania in 1983.
Mission of Cheyney University
Established in 1837, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania cherishes its legacy as America’s first institution for higher learning for African Americans. Cheyney University’s mission is to prepare confident, competent, reflective, visionary leaders and responsible citizens. We uphold our tradition of academic excellence as we maintain our historical commitment to opportunity and access for students of diverse backgrounds. Cheyney University provides a nurturing, intellectually challenging and socially enriching environment.
To learn more about Cheyney University of Pennsylvania’s history as the oldest educational institution for African American’s in the United States and its ongoing legacy of excellence, please click here.