Mary Holmes Seminary/College
Jackson and West Point, Mississippi
The 1925-26 catalog is available through the University of Southern Mississippi archives. E-Yearbook has the 1976 Eagle. Issues of Home Mission Monthly with articles about Mary Holmes Seminary are available on HathiTrust. HBCUStoryteller has a short history of Mary Holmes Seminary and College on line. Mary Holmes College has an active alumni association with a website.
Mary Holmes Seminary was created to provide for a “Christian education of colored girls.” Its three departments were literary—to teach grammar, great literature, and things necessary for the ordinary business of life—musical, and industrial.
Founders were the Reverend Mead Holmes and his daughter Miss Mary E. Holmes (above, right). They were sponsored by the Board of Missions for Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church. The school was named for Mary D. Holmes, the wife and mother of the founders. It opened in Jackson, MS in fall 1892 with 90 students.
The 1925 catalog shows a student body of 193, taught by a faculty of 12. There was a small preparatory department, a three-year grammar course and a four-year normal/scientific course. All courses had a Bible component. Upper normal courses had Latin, higher mathematics, business, and domestic science components. Requirements for a teaching certificate included three years of vocal music and two years of piano.
Bricks and Mortar
Mary Holmes College went through four main buildings in its 113-year history. The initial building at Jackson burned in 1895. The first building at West Point, built in 1897, burned in 1899. Its replacement, dating from 1900, was built on the same foundation. The catalog describes it as a brick structure measuring 200 by 142 feet. It contained three stories over a “light and Airy basement.” With 110 rooms, it could accommodate 200 students.
That building also burned in February of 1939 and was replaced in 1940. Called the Mead Holmes Administration Building, the replacement was a two and one-half story frame structure over a brick basement. It appears to have been built also on the old foundation with the distinctive L shape.
In 1991 Mary Holmes Junior College Historic District was placed on the National Register. After the college closed, the campus was ultimately sold to Community Counseling Services, which renovated some buildings. The decaying Administration Building was razed in July of 2017.
Colors: Purple and White
College football Data Warehouse shows a dozen football games for Mary Holmes College between 1940 and 1962. But as Dr. Roger B. Saylor shows, records for small black schools are notoriously “sparse and incomplete.” Six of those twelve games listed were against neighboring Okolona Industrial College.
In 1962 newspapers show that Mary Holmes played basketball as a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Junior College Conference of HBCU schools in Mississippi, including Okolona, Utica, Prentiss, Campbell, Coahoma, Harris, Tougaloo, and Natchez.
The 1976 Eagle shows three sports—men’s and women’s basketball and baseball.
The 1976 Eagle shows a two-year college of 360 students. With the exception of 11 students from Illinois, almost all were from Mississippi or a neighboring state. Students had four social organizations—Afro Men, Cocoa Phi Cocoa, Pamoja and Tan Phi Cocoa. MHC had an ROTC unit, a college choir, a yearbook staff, the Mary Holmes Players, and two academic organizations. The five most popular majors for MHC Sophomores were social science, elementary education, business administration, physical education, and secretarial science.
The college began to struggle in the 1970’s. HBCUStoryteller notes, “Unable to attract adequate money, administrators, faculty or students, Mary Holmes College lost its accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 2002." It offered its last class in 2003 before pursuing bankruptcy.
In 1932 Mary Holmes Seminary became co-educational with a focus on preparing teachers. In 1959, it became an open admissions community college under the name Mary Holmes Junior College. Ten years later it became independent of-- but still affiliated with-- the Presbyterian church, dropping the word “Junior” from its name.
1911 Normal school graduates. Image from Home Mission Monthly. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015068467680;view=1up;seq=15. Accessed 5-13-2018
Mead Holmes Administration Building in 2014. Image by Jennifer Baughn of Mississippi Department of Archives & History. https://www.apps.mdah.ms.gov/Public/prop.aspx?id=5014&view=facts&y=728. Accessed 5-12-2018