Monday, February 24, 2003

Ohio Bicentennial Moment

Payne was first black college leader in U.S.

On Feb. 24, 1811, Daniel Alexander Payne, sixth bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born in Charleston, S.C.

He was the second president of Wilberforce University near Xenia, which was the first college in America to be owned and operated by blacks.

Payne thus became the first black college president in the country.

His parents were free blacks who sacrificed much to educate him. He attended a private school in Charleston, as well as the Gettysburg Seminary in Pennsylvania. He taught himself Latin, Greek, astronomy, history, zoology and geology.

Payne was on the board that incorporated Wilberforce University in 1856. It established the college on the principle that no one would be discriminated against because of race or creed.

The onset of the Civil War saw declining enrollment and mounting debt.

The trustees closed the college in 1863 and put it up for sale.

Payne purchased the property for $10,000 under the auspices of the AME Church.

He served as the university's president for 13 years.

- Rebecca Goodman

Ohio Moments appear daily during 2003. Have a suggestion? Contact Rebecca Goodman at or (513) 768-8361.

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