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Allen University [South Carolina] (1870 - )

Chappelle Administration Building, Allen University
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Allen University, a Christian liberal arts institution located on a 20-acre campus in Columbia, South Carolina, is the oldest historically black college in the state.  The school was founded in 1870 by the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church of South Carolina, and was originally located in Newberry and known as Payne College, after antebellum South Carolina AME Bishop and educator Daniel Payne.  The school moved to Columbia in 1880, and, after being incorporated under state law, was renamed Allen University in honor of Bishop Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  The school’s original purpose was to provide educational opportunities to recently freed slaves.  Allen especially focused on training ministers for AME churches.  

Today, Allen’s vision is to “prepare leaders who are skilled in communication, critical thinking, and who demonstrate high moral character.”  The school’s aim is to provide a stimulating academic environment to enhance their students' educational progress and to prepare them to achieve in a culturally diverse global economy.  Five buildings on the Allen University campus have been officially awarded “Historic District Status” by the United States Department of the Interior.

Allen University is on a semester system and confers Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees in eight academic majors:  biology, business administration, chemistry, English, mathematics, music, religion and social science.  The university emphasizes personalized instruction and students at Allen are encouraged to supplement their academic program with practical work experience. As of fall term 2008, Allen’s student body numbered 727.  This was the largest enrollment in the history of the institution.  About 80% of Allen students enrolled during the 2008-2009 academic year were residents of the state of South Carolina.  

The online education program is the most recent addition to the Allen University curriculum.  This program is designed to meet the educational goals of traditional day students as well as adult professionals who already hold degrees.

Faustine C. Jones-Wilson, Charles A. Asbury, Margo Okazawa-Rey, D. Kamili Anderson, Sylvia M. Jacobs & Michael Fultz,  Encyclopedia of African-American Education  (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996);  Toni Hodge-Wright, The Handbook of Historically Black Colleges and Universities  (Seattle: Jireh and Associates, 1992); Allen University website,


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