- This article is about the historically black women's college in Greensboro, North Carolina. For the women's college in Millbrook, New York which existed from 1890 to 1978, see Bennett College (New York).
is a four-year liberal arts women's college
in Greensboro, North Carolina
. Founded in 1873, this historically black
institution began as a normal school
to provide education to newly emancipated slaves. It became a women's college
in 1926 and currently serves roughly 600 undergraduates
Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou have recently offered public support to Bennett College.
Bennett's founding and coeducational years
Bennett College was founded in 1873 by Albion Tourgee an activist in the second half of the 19th century who championed the cause of racial equality. The school held its inaugural classes in the basement of Warnersville Methodist Episcopal Church North (now St. Matthew's United Methodist) in Greensboro. At its inception, Bennett was a coeducational
school (offering both high school
level courses), and remained so until 1926. The year after its founding, the school became sponsored by the Freedman's Aid Society
and Southern Education Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church
. The school remained in temporary quarters for several years, until donations from New York
businessman Lyman Bennett provided sufficient funds to build a permanent campus. Bennett died soon thereafter, and the school was named Bennett Seminary
in his honor.
In 1888, Bennett Seminary elected its first African-American school president, the Reverend Charles Grandison. Grandison spearheaded a successful drive to have the school chartered as a four year college in 1889. Under his direction, and the direction of the president who followed him (Jordan Chavis), Bennett College grew from 11 undergraduate students to a total of 251 undergraduates by 1905. The enrollment leveled out in the 1910s at roughly 300.
Reorganization as a women's college and history
From the Bennett College page at stateuniversity.com
In 1926, Bennett College, which had long had a close working relationship with the Women's Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, chose to reorganize as Bennett College for Women. In the wake of World War I, increased opportunities for women had increased the need for colleges that would prepare young women for greater social and commercial opportunity. David Dallas Jones was appointed the first president of the women's college -- under his leadership, the high school campus at Bennett was closed to focus the attentions of the staff fully on expanding and enriching the college curriculum. Some aspects of his tenure included promoting academic excellence and cultural awareness. After Jones's death, Willa B. Player assumed the presidency becoming the First African American Woman to serve as President of a four year college or university -- under her guidance, Bennett College became one of the first 15 four-year African American colleges to be admitted to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.... During Dr. Players tenure as President, she welcomed Dr. Martin Luther King to speak on campus in one of his historical speeches in 1958. Also, during this time the Bennett women were the mastermind behind the sit-in movement made famous by the A&T four. In the process many Bennett Belles were beaten and jailed for equality. This idea of the Bennett Belles aided in the change of the American South. Dr. Player supported her students and brought there assignments to jail so they would not fall behind on their studies.
Bennett College Traditions
Bennett College for Women has many traditions to which they hold dear. To name a few:
- Covocotum Est.
- Charter Day
- Parting Ceremony
- Big Sister, Little Sister
- White Breakfast
- Senior Day
- Senior Day Banquet
- Faculty and Staff Recognition Day
- Morehouse College Homecoming
- Wearing Pearls
Traditional Dress: White dresses, fleshtone stockings, and black shoes
The attire of Bennett women were dresses, stockings (fleshtone), hats, pocket books, shoes, pearls and gloves. Pearls are the symbol of womanhood. This style is a steeple in Bennett's "herstory."
With 678 students, all women and primarily of African-American descent, enrolled in one of Bennett's 24 degree programs. Bennett is currently ranked #16 among the top historically black colleges and universities, both for its academic achievements and its relatively reasonable tuition
rates. Today Bennett is reorganizing and revitalizing its campus and academic infrastructure. Bennett's brother school is Morehouse College
in Atlanta,GA. This brother and sisterhood came about through the close and historic friendship of former Bennett College President (Dr. David Dallas Jones) and former Morehouse College President (Dr. Benjamin E. Mays).
Presidents of the College
There have been fifteen principals or presidents of Bennett College
- W.J. Parker (principal) (1874 - 1877)
- Reverend Edward O. Thayer (1877 - 1881)
- Reverend Wilbur F. Steele - (1881 - 1889)
- Reverend Charles N. Grandison - (1889 - 1892)
- Dr. Jordan Chavis - (1892-1905)
- Reverend Silas A. Peeler - (1905 - 1913)
- Professor James E. Wallace - (1913 - 1915)
- Reverend Frank Trigg - (1915 - 1926)
- David Dallas Jones - (1926 - 1955)
- Dr. Willa B. Player - (1956 - 1966)
- Dr. Isaac H. Miller, Jr. - (1966 - ???)
- Dr. Gloria Randle Scott - (1987 - 2001)
- Dr. Althia F. Collins - (2001 - 2002)
- Dr. Charles Fuget - (2002, interim)
- Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole - (2002 - 2007)
- Dr. Julianne Malveaux (beginning June 1, 2007)
Unique academic programs
Bennett has incorporated three new programs that are aimed at increasing students' awareness of the struggles and accomplishments of all women, especially those of African descent; and staying in-step with the ever-changing climate of today's globally integrated society: Womanist Religious Studies, Global Studies, Africana Women's Studies and The New Academy.
Referred to as Living Learning Centers, Bennett College houses its students in the following six facilities:
- Carrie Barge Hall
- Laura Cone Hall
- Robert E. Jones Hall
- Annie Merner Pfeiffer Hall
- Willa B. Player Hall
- Jessie Reynolds Hall
There are over 50 campus organizations. Others include social, service, religious, and the student government association, to join these organizations feel free to go to the Student Service Director.
- Guy-Sheftall, Beverly. "Black Women and Higher Education: Spelman and Bennett Colleges Revisited." The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 51, No. 3, The Impact of Black Women in Education: An Historical Overview (Summer, 1982), pp. 278-287.