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Lincoln Institute of Kentucky

Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky

1912 -1966


HathiTrust has The Lincoln Institute Worker published between 1912 and 1921.  A good early history of the school is Clara Porter Colton’s Lincoln Institute at Simpsonville on the Main Railroad Line Between Louisville and LexingtonShelby County Tales of the Past provides a good history of buildings. The Lexington Leader covered some school events.  Lincoln Institute still has an active alumni association with a website.  



Founded by Abolitionists, Berea College had been integrated since its inception in 1855.  But in 1904, the Day Law forbade integrated education in Kentucky.  Berea College leaders then helped create Lincoln Institute to provide educational opportunities for Black students.  According to Colton, its three-fold purpose was to train Black teachers, to provide training for all students in “some useful trade,” and to provide them with a fundamental academic background.


The school opened in October 1912 with 40 students.  By 1916 enrollment was listed as 142 taught by 15 teachers.  The curriculum for the normal program included English, Latin, mathematics, Bible, history, physics, and teacher training.  Normal students were required to take classes in agriculture or home-making.  Students training for a trade were required to take academic courses.


The main extra-curricular program involved music.  The Institute Band, the Institute Chorus and the Institute Quartet performed in support of the school.  A non-denominational school, Lincoln Institute sponsored chapters of the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. 


The six-year normal course had three levels beyond grade eight.  The third level led to a Bachelor of Pedagogy degree.  By 1930 the Lexington Leader reported that Lincoln was “an accredited junior college.”  It also reported that the school had achieved a Class A rating for both high school and junior college departments.  At some point in the late 1930’s the junior college department was dropped, and Lincoln Institute continued as a high school.  After the Brown verses Board of Education Supreme Court decision, the need for a separate school for Blacks decreased, and so the school was closed in 1966.

1915 Lincoln Institute normal students.  Note the age range. First-level students would have been the equivalent of high school Sophomores; third-level students would have been college sophomores. Image from The Lincoln Institute Worker;view=1up;seq=98.  Accessed 4-5-2018

Berea Hall.  An east wing was planned but was never added. Accessed 4-15-2018.

Bricks and Mortar

The Berea College president took the leadership in fundraising for the new campus.  Andrew Carnegie provided $200,000 of the more than $400,000 needed to purchase 444 acres of land and construct buildings in Shelby County.  The campus was on the Interurban line between Louisville and Lexington.  Black Architect Vertner W. Tandy designed the four Neo-Tudor buildings.  The classroom building—now known as Berea Hall—was a brown brick two-story structure with a five-story tower. Sitting atop Lincoln Ridge, it was flanked by three other brick buildings: Belknap Hall, the boys’ dormitory; Norton Hall, the girls’ dormitory, and the Industrial Building.


The campus was used by Lincoln School for the Gifted until 1970, and has been used by the Whitney M. Young Jr. Job Corps Center since 1972.   The Lincoln Institute complex was placed on the National Register in 1988.


            Team name: Teams finally became known as Tigers. 

            School colors: Red


In 1917 the Lincoln Institute Worker reported that the school “approved athletics in moderation.”  With coaching for the first time, the team that year had compiled a 3-0-1 record without giving up a point.  Victories had come over teams now known as Simmons University, Kentucky State University and Louisville Central High School.  Because of segregation, the Lincoln schedule was limited to Black opponents.  In addition to Simmons and Kentucky State, opponents often included high schools such as Dunbar High of Lexington and William Grant High School of Covington. 


As a member of the Kentucky Negro Education Association, Lincoln Institute continued to compete at the high school level in football, basketball and baseball until it closed in 1966. 


In 1925 the Leader noted that a Lincoln Institute student named George C. Simpson had won the K.N.E.A. high jump championship with a leap of 5’ 10 ½.”

Lincoln football_edited_edited.jpg

1919 Lincoln Institute football team.  Image from The Lincoln Institute Worker;view=1up;seq=238.  Accessed 4-5-2018

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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