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Knoxville College

Knoxville, Tennessee




HathiTrust has digitized copies of the early catalogs of Knoxville College.  E-yearbooks has the 1942, 1963, and 1971 KnoxuniorSanctuary on the Hill, Tiffany Moman 2016 master’s thesis, has an illustrated history of campus buildings.


Knoxville College was founded by the United Presbyterian Church to assist young Blacks after the Civil War.  Catalogs state the purpose of the school was “to train head and hand, and heart to prepare young men and women for the largest usefulness in life.”  To meet this goal Knoxville College featured a number of departments.  The 1906 catalog listed classical, scientific, literary, normal, theological, musical, mechanical, agricultural, domestic science, and common school.  In other years the list included medical, nursing, and military.  Knoxville College offered B.A., B.S., and B.D. degrees for collegiate and theology graduates, diplomas for normal and agricultural graduates, and certificates for completion in other departments.




1908 Knoxville College graduates.  Bachelor's students are in the front row. Normal students are behind them.  Image from the 1908 catalog. (

Knoxville College was a strict religious school.  Students attended a daily required chapel as well as Sunday church services.  They were members of the Young People’s Christian Union, the Y.M.C.A. and the Ladies’ Missionary Society.  Beginning in 1896, K.C. offered a two-week Bible School in the summer.


Catalogs devote a page to regulations for the dress of female students.  College women wore navy blue serge skirts with blue percale shirt waists.  Each female had to provide two gingham aprons.  Female students were also required to make their own white graduation dresses  Early on, male students wore military uniforms. 


1n 1906 the college had four literary societies—two for men and two for women.  All normal and collegiate students were required to be members, and rooms and days were set aside for their activities. Later a fifth society was added for all collegiate students.  Male and female students 



dined together, recited together, attended church together and had “an opportunity of spending one evening together in the parlors each month at the 'social'.”

Through 1922, attendance hovered around 400 students—only a quarter of which were collegiate students, and a large number were elementary age.  The elementary division was dropped in 1926 and the high school division in 1931.  The 1942 Knoxunior shows an enrollment of 125. Both the 1963 and 1971 yearbooks show enrollments exceeding 500.


Knoxville College had a debate team, which participated in intercollegiate meets with Morehouse, Talledega, and Fisk. Musical groups included the College Vested Choir, the Men’s Chorus, and the Women’s Chorus.  In addition to the yearbook, K.C. students published a semi-monthly paper called the Aurora.


In the 1970’s Knoxville College began to experience financial problems and eventually lost S.A.C.S. accreditation in 1997.  Despite resurgence, enrollment was down to 11 students in 2015, leading to closure.  Financial and enrollment problems were exacerbated by a toxic spill of chemicals stored in the science building.  KC had hoped to reopen in 2016, but did not. 

Bricks and Mortar

The three-building core of the 22-acre Knoxville College campus was composed of McKee Hall, Elnathan Hall and McCulloch Hall.  McKee (1876), the administration building, burned in 1894 and was replaced.  Measuring 119 by 75 feet, it contained a chapel seating 400.  Elnathan (1893) served as the women’s dormitory.  Burned in 1896, it was rebuilt in 1898 with 60 double rooms.  McCulloch (1895) served as the men’s dormitory with 55 rooms.  Students made over a million bricks in 1894 and helped in the construction of the buildings.  The Knoxville College Singers went on tour to raise funds for the construction of McCulloch Hall. 


McCulloch Hall was razed after 1960.  The others are part of an eight-building National Register of the Knoxville College District. McKee Hall has been condemned by the city and most buildings are shuttered. 


          Team name: Bulldogs

          Colors: Blue and Garnet


Knoxville played football more or less regularly from 1904 to 1996. From 1926 to 1990 KC was a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.  Football teams won the Division II championship in 1977 and the Division III championship in 1986 and 1987.    Regular opponents included Fisk, Morehouse, Clark, Tuskeegee, Livingstone, and Kentucky State.


The 1971 yearbook shows a women’s basketball team called the Robinettes, playing an AAU schedule.

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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