Historic Memphis LeMoyne College

    ... The Howe Institute and Owen College



LeMoyne College is a private, historically black, four year, co-educational liberal arts institution located in Memphis, Tennessee.  It's affiliated with the United Church of Christ and traces its roots back to 1862, when it was a Freedman's school named Lincoln Chapel.  Over the years it has merged with the Memphis Howe Institute and with Owen College.  Today the school, now in its 153rd year, is known as LeMoyne-Owen College and occupies a 15 acre campus is Memphis.




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Le Moyne Normal and Commercial School


LeMoyne Normal and Commercial School opened officially in 1871, but it actually began in 1862 when the American Missionary Association (AMA) sent Lucinda Humphrey to open an elementary school for freedmen and runaway slaves in Camp Shiloh soon after the occupation of Memphis under Ulysses S. Grant.  In 1863 hat school moved to Memphis and was known as Lincoln Chapel School.  It was destroyed by fire in the Memphis  riots of 1866. The AMA immediately sent $10,000 to rebuild the school, and it reopened  in 1867  in a two story building with 4 classrooms and 150 students and 6 teachers.  Two years later it had 2,000 pupils in spaces designed for 150.  And -  the small school had severe financial problems. 

L, Humphrey  

Freedman's School 1864

Typical Interior

*Memphis Riots 1866

*The "Cause"

*The  Report

*The Schools


In 1870, Dr. Francis J. LeMoyne, a Pennsylvania doctor, donated $20,000 to the American Missionary Association to build an elementary and secondary school for prospective teachers.  He also donated a clock for the school's tower.  In 1871, the school opened in a new building at 284 Orleans Street and was named LeMoyne Normal and Commercial School.  The building had cost $9,000, leaving $11,000 as an endowment.   The first years were difficult as the yellow fever epidemic took its toll on school personnel, but under the leadership of the 3rd principal,  Andrew J. Steele, the institution experienced three decades of rapid growth and development. 

  F. J. Le Moyne

LeMoyne with Clock Tower

LeMoyne Class 1871

A. J. Steele

The New School

Original Location




There were three divisions at the school:  The normal school for teachers, a commercial department, and a music department.  The first two diplomas were granted in 1876.  In 1901 a high school was added to prepare students for the normal school course.

In 1914 the school moved from 284 Orleans Street to its present location on Walker Avenue.  The first building, Steele Hall, was erected on the new campus. 


Location Today


LeMoyne became a junior college in 1924, and a four-year college in 1934, when the name was changed to LeMoyne College.  By this time, LeMoyne had  strong debating and football teams which helped the school gain name recognition.  Hollis F. Price became LeMoyne's first black president in 1943 .


1930 Football Team


1873 Article

1876 Article Steele Hall 1900 Class 1908 Staff

1908 Class

L.T. Larsen

L.T. Larsen article

1910 Class

Last Junior Class      


Principal's House

Teacher's House

 Hollis F. Price

1939 Article

1947 Article

1963 Diploma


Football 1939 Bruce Hall 1954 Bruce Hall Interior Steele Hall Marker



LeMoyne Bulletin 1883-84:  The school consists of Normal, Grammar, Intermediate, and Primary Departments  "...to give a thoroughly practical English education, and to prepare teachers for the public schools. ...using the best methods of presenting each subject; so that when a pupil shall have mastered a lesson, he shall not only be familiar with the principles therein treated, but shall also have some clear and well-defined ideas how they may be successfully taught to others."


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Pg 14


Pg 15

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Maj. General Ulysses S. Grant appointed John Eaton superintendent of freedman where he supervised all military posts from Cairo to Natchez and Fort Smith.  In 1863 Grant appointed him as the Superintendent of Negro Affairs for  Tennessee and there Eaton supervised the establishment of 74 schools.  In 1863 Eaton was made colonel of the 63rd United States Colored Infantry.  After the Civil War he became editor of the Memphis Daily Post.  From 1867-69 he was the state superintendent of schools of Tennessee.  In 1870 he was appointed United States Commissioner of Education. 

John Eaton  

In 1871, J. H. Barnum had been principal of LeMoyne College.  In 1873 he became principal of Clay Street School, the first Black BRICK public school in Memphis.  Shortly afterwards, in 1874, he was named the first Superintendent of Memphis Colored Schools.  Than tenure didn't last long because of conflicts with the white school board and he was replaced by B. K. Sampson in 1875.  The "Conflicts"???  Barnum wanted to replace the white teachers with black teachers at the "Colored" schools.


J. H. Barnum    



The Howe Institute


The Howe Institute was founded in 1888 by Peter Howe of Illinois.  It was originally called the Memphis Baptist and Normal Institute and was one of the earliest private educational facilities for African Americans in Memphis.  In 1902 Thomas O. Fuller was named principal and under his leadership the school grew by leaps and bounds.  There were five buildings on campus - the original Howe Building, then an Industrial Shop, which gave space for the printing and sewing departments, and then a Teacher's College building along with the Clara Howe Dormitory for girls. 


But the Howe Institute had no endowment and relied on support from tuitions and donations, so there was always a struggle.  Howe sold its buildings and merged with LeMoyne College in 1937.


1910 Howe Institute Construction  Clara Howe 1910 Clara Howe 1910 Howe Bldg

1911 The Campus


During his tenure, Reverend Fuller sought to improve the lives of African Americans by fostering a sense of black pride and stressing the importance of education.  Under his leadership, the Howe Institute grew in student population and in additional buildings.  In the beginning of the twentieth century, the Howe Institute was one of the few schools in Memphis to offer education to blacks above grammar school.  Originally appointed as the interim principal until the Institute could find someone to fill the position full time, Fuller's "arrangement" lasted twenty-seven years.  T. O. Fuller State Park is named for him.

T. O. Fuller  

T. O. Fuller Fuller and Wife Principal's Home 1910 article Howe article

T. O. Fuller Park



< =    1910 Article by Thomas O. Fuller   = >


1900 Class - Clara Howe Bldg


         1909 Brochure

1909 Brochure - continued


1908 Staff

Howe Location


Fuller-1925       Howe Jr College-1925


Owen College

Owens College began in 1947, when the Tennessee Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention bought property on Vance Avenue to build a junior college.  After several years of planning, the school opened in 1954 as S. A. Owen Junior College, named in honor of a distinguished religious and civic leader.  The name was later changed to Owen Junior College.  The merger of Owen and LeMoyne Colleges in 1968 joined two religious traditions at the same time that it reinforced the institutions shared purpose of combining a liberal arts education with career training in a Christian setting.

1954 Owen College Admin  

The two-year liberal arts college offered associate degrees in general education, business, home economics, religious education, and secretarial science.  It also offered a training program leading to a certificate in adult education.  There were late afternoon and evening classes, as well as special classes for adults below college grade.  Some students chose the terminal program, but the majority selected the transfer program, and after graduating, they entered four-year colleges such as Rust, Lane, Howard, LeMoyne, and Tennessee State.


2012 Marker Dedication


Owen College 1957      

Owen College 1959



The 1960 Sit-ins  

A small group of LeMoyne College and Owen Junior College students organized sit-ins on March 18, 1960.  They first targeted the main public library, where 40 students sat at tables, and then the protests spread to the Memphis department stores.  More than 300 demonstrators were arrested on charges of loitering.  Ten local lawyers, representing the NAACP were able to get most of the charges dropped.  The Protests in Memphis continued throughout the summer of 1960.  These protests resulted in the integration of buses and the city's parks.


        1960 sit- in



LeMoyne-Owen College ...today

Today LeMoyne-Owen College occupies a fifteen acre campus in Memphis.  Recent statistics show the school's enrollment to be around 700 students from 15 states and five foreign countries.  There are approximately 70 full time faculty members.  LeMoyne is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and is a charter member of the United Negro College Fund.  The school offers bachelor of arts, bachelor of business administration, and bachelor of science degrees in 22 majors.  The college is on a semester schedule and serves both resident and non-resident students.  Approximately 25% of the student body lives in on-campus housing.

1980 Brownlee Hall

Sweeney Hall

Vintage Postcard

Steele Hall


Students on Campus



Vintage Button









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