Wiley College is a four-year, private, historically black, liberal arts college located on the west side of Marshall, Texas. Founded in 1873 by the Methodist Episcopal Church's Bishop Isaac Wiley and certified in 1882 by the Freedman's Aid Society, it holds distinction as one of the oldest predominantly black colleges west of the Mississippi River.
The original college library was a Carnegie Library. In 1907 Wiley received the first Carnegie college library west of the Mississippi. The building is now the current home of the business office.
In 2005-2006, on-campus enrollment approached 450, while an off-campus program in Shreveport, Louisiana, for students with some prior college credit who seek to finish a degree, was about 250. In the Fall of 2005, total enrollment approached approximately 700. As of Fall 2006, total enrollment was about 750. Wiley is an open admissions college and about 96 percent of students receive some amount of financial aid.
The 1935 Wiley College debate team was the basis for the 2007 movie The Great Debaters, directed by and starring Denzel Washington. In 1935, the Wiley College debate team defeated the reigning national debate champions, the University of Southern California (not Harvard, as depicted in the movie). On December 19, 2007, Denzel Washington announced a donation of $1 million US to Wiley so the team could be re-established.
Wiley and Bishop students launched the first sit-ins in Texas in the rotunda of the Old Harrison County Courthouse. James L. Farmer, Jr., son of James L. Farmer, Sr., graduated from Wiley and became one of the "Big Four" of the Civil Rights Movement (along with Roy Wilkins, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Whitney M. Young Jr.) ; organizing the first sit-ins and Freedom Rides in the United States.