Shaw University 150

Science Hall

About Shaw University

Historical Perspective

PAGE LINKS: Landmarks | World War II Study | CAPE (Center for Alternative Programs in Education)
Intercollegiate Athletics | Community Involvement | Extra-Curricular Activities | Interesting Facts

On December 1, 1865, when Henry Martin Tupper undertook the organization of a theology class as a means of teaching Freedmen to read and interpret the Bible, no one envisioned the end result of this being the establishment of a university. Rapid growth in the size of this class led to the purchase of land in 1866 for the purpose of erecting a building to serve as both church and school. The school was named the "Raleigh Institute," and it functioned as such until 1870, when it was supplanted by the "Shaw Collegiate Institute." In 1875, it was incorporated as the "Shaw University," which name it still bears, with the charter specifying that students were to be admitted without regard to race, creed, or sex. The school does not bear the name of its founder but of Elijah Shaw, the benefactor who provided funds for the first building, Shaw Hall, erected in 1871.

The co-educational emphasis of the institution was noted with the erection of the Estey Hall (1873), the first women's dormitory on a co-educational campus in the United States. Named for its primary benefactor, Jacob Estey, the building was used as a residence hall for women until 1968 and for men from 1968 to 1970. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The University graduated its first college class in 1878, its first class of medical doctors in 1886, awarded its first law degree in 1890, and its first pharmacy degree in 1893. In 1909, the Normal Department was supplanted by an Education Department, and in 1910, the Preparatory Department became a four-year academy. The professional schools were closed in 1918, but the college, theological department, and academy were continued, the latter existing until 1926. The theological department became a theological seminary in 1933 and continued as part of the University until 1976, when it became an independent institution. Since 1921, Shaw has functioned primarily as a liberal arts college, although it has retained its name as a university.

In 1931, the University elected its first Black president, Dr. William Stuart Nelson, who was president from 1931 to 1936. In 1963, the University elected its first president who is an alumnus of the school, Dr. James E. Cheek. He remained president from December 1963 through June 1969. Dr. Clarence G. Newsome is the 13th President of Shaw University. Under his leadership, Shaw University has taken many bold and progressive strides towards the mark of excellence. Under his leadership the University has broken ground for the Shaw University Center for Early Childhood Education, Research and Development; the Social Work Program has been granted candidacy towards full accreditation; the Shaw University Divinity School (SUDS) was awarded Full Accredited Membership status for 10 years by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) for the first time in its nearly 100-year history, and Avaya Inc., a leading global provider of communications networks and services for businesses, was chosen to advance the capability of students, faculty and the campus community into a new age of technology with Internet Protocol (IP) Telephony communications. [ Top ]


Shaw University has two buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Estey Hall, erected in 1873, was the nation's first dormitory to house women on a coeducational campus. The Rogers-Bagley-Daniels-Pegues House, built in 1855, was associated with several leading figures in local, state, and national history, including Sion Hart Rogers, a prominent local politician before the Civil War; Major William J. Bagley, a North Carolina senator during the Civil War; and Josephus Daniels, a journalist and the chief clerk of the Department of the Interior under president Grover Cleveland, the Secretary of the Navy during President Woodrow Wilson’s entire tenure in the White House, and an ambassador to Mexico during the first nine years of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency. Dr. Albert Pegues, who purchased the house from the Bagley family, was a noted black educator, serving as dean of the Theological Department at Shaw University for ten years. In addition, Shaw is also located in East Raleigh South Park Historic District. The District is also listed in the National Register. [ Top ]

World War II Study

Shaw University led a research study to investigate why Black WWII veterans were overlooked for the Medal of Honor. The study concluded that racism was the reason Black soldiers did not receive the top military award. After citing its conclusion, the 272-page Shaw study went on to recommend and name ten soldiers whose military records warranted receipt of the Medal of Honor.

In January 1995 the team's findings were delivered to Washington, D.C. In April 1996 the University received word that the Pentagon had chosen seven of the ten soldiers recommended in the study to receive the prestigious medal. All of those nominated had received less distinguished awards for their military service. President William Jefferson Clinton awarded the Medals of Honor on January 13, 1997. The Pentagon's reaction to the $320,585.00 federally funded study marked the third time in history the military has re-evaluated military records to award the Medal of Honor. Only one of the seven nominees, 1st Lt. Vernon Baker of St. Maries, Idaho, was alive to receive the medal. Those who received the Medal of Honor posthumously were: 1st Lt. Charles L. Thomas of Detroit; Pvt. George Watson of Birmingham, Ala.; Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter Jr. of Los Angeles, CA; 1st Lt. John R. Fox of Boston; Pfc. Willy F. James Jr. of Kansas City, Kan.; and Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers of Tecumseh, Okla. [ Top ]

CAPE (Center for Alternative Programs in Education)

The Center for Alternative Programs in Education (CAPE) allows students in nine cities across North Carolina the opportunity to pursue an academic degree through flexible course scheduling, independent study, and credit for prior learning experiences. CAPE sites are located in Ahoskie, Asheville, Durham, Fayetteville, High Point, Kannapolis, Raleigh, Rocky Mount/Wilson, and Wilmington. [ Top ]  

Intercollegiate Athletics

Shaw University is affiliated with the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II. Shaw University offers a variety of collegiate sports and boasts of being 1995 CIAA Champions in women's volleyball and 1994 CIAA champions in women's softball and men's baseball, and finalists in tennis. The athletic department consists of 10 athletic programs.

Men: Basketball, Baseball, Tennis, Track/Indoor-Outdoor, Cross Country
Women: Basketball, Volleyball, Softball, Track/Indoor-Outdoor, Cross Country [ Top ]

Extra-Curricular Activities

Organizations and clubs on-campus include The Shaw Players and Company, the Student Government Association, cheerleaders, intramural and extramural sports, sororities, fraternities, gospel and university choirs, the jazz, pep, and concert bands, and COGs (Children of God) represent a wide range of student activities that exist at Shaw University. WSHA radio station, the Honda Quiz Bowl Team, the Shawensis Literary Club, the Student North Carolina Association of Educators, the Pre-Alumni Council, and the Shaw Journal Campus Newspaper are a few of the University's pre-professional organizations that provide great ways to enhance your classroom activities while enjoying the camaraderie of fellow students.  [ Top ]  

Community Involvement  

Shaw University is heavily involved in the community. Community service and outreach programs include a pre-college program sponsored by the US Environmental Protection Agency for 8th through 12th graders to enhance their skills in mathematics, English, science, and computer science; a community development project sponsored by US Housing and Urban Development to help small businesses; and "Peers as Partners," a program in which Shaw University students enrolled in ethics classes help public school students with peer mediation and conflict resolution. [ Top ]

Interesting Facts

Shaw University has been called the mother of African-American colleges in North Carolina. North Carolina Central, Elizabeth City State, and Fayetteville State Universities were founded by Shaw graduates. The founder of Livingstone College spent his first two college years at Shaw before transferring to Lincoln University, and what is now A&T State University was located on Shaw's campus during its first year of existence. In addition, the Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was an outgrowth of a conference held on the campus of Shaw University in 1960. [ Top ]