5 Lost Colleges & Universities of the Inner City

October 22, 2015 4 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Many would like to see an urban university grow up in the heart of the city. Here's five schools that got away.

2. Cookman Institute

Cookman Institute image courtesy of the University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/stowell/ill19.html

The Cookman Institute was founded by Reverend S.B Darnell in 1872. Darnell named the institute after the Reverend Alfred Cookman, who gave money for the construction of the institute’s very first building. The Cookman Institute was the first institution of higher education for African-Americans in the state of Florida, specializing in the religious and academic preparation of teachers. Located at the intersection of Beaver and Hogan Street and associated with Atlanta's Clark University, classes were available during the day and night.

When the original campus was destroyed during the Great Fire of 1901, it was decided that a new institute would be built on the outskirts of town. The selected site was in the Sugar Hill neighborhood near the intersection of Davis and West 8th Streets.  After the rebuild, Cookman had classes from elementary through high school, and also offered “specialty” courses in normal training, music, domestic science, sewing, public speaking, shoemaking, printing, business, and agriculture. At the time, enrollment stood around 250.

One of Cookman's students, A. Philip Randolph, would go on in life to become a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance and civil rights movement. Randolph, who died in 1979, even played a major role in the 1963 march of Washington where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.

The Cookman Institute's original location at Beaver and Hogan Streets in 1897.

The educational opportunities for African Americans at this time were inadequate, despite the fact that much of the population was black. As a result, there was a huge demand for teachers, and Cookman Institute thus received a new Principal, Professor Issac Miller, and merged with the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute, which had been founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary Bethune. Bethune  had a vision that had been similar to Cookman. When the merger was finalized in 1925, the school became the Daytona-Cookman Collegiate Institute. In 1931, the school's name was officially changed to Bethune-Cookman College. On February 14, 2007, the Board of Trustees approved the name Bethune-Cookman University (BCU) after establishing its first graduate program. With an enrollment of 3,400 students, BCU's 82-acre urban campus is located near downtown Daytona Beach.

After the institute vacated the Jacksonville campus, it was purchased by the Duval County School System. In honor of both Rev. S. B. Darnell and Rev. Alfred Cookman, Jacksonville activist Eartha White, suggested the current name of the school, Darnell-Cookman. Today, Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School is an  has an "A" school in the State of Florida's school grading system and a National Blue Ribbon School as designated by the USDOE.

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