The School Down the StreetWilliam Wilberforce was a British politician who devoted his life to ending slavery. There is a school named in his honor less than five miles from my house. It’s the first university to be owned and operated by African Americans in America.
The school’s first board was made up of both black and white board members. Nothing would challenge these relationships, and this academic effort, more than the Civil War which took place only a few years after the school was founded in 1856. Due to financial hardships resulting from the war the school faced closing in 1863, two years before the war ended.
The African Methodist Episcopalian Church stepped in and purchased the college to continue its ability to offer students a classical education. The school’s academic reputation quickly drew from the top talent of the day including W.E.B. Du Bois, the first African American PhD graduate from Harvard University, who turned down a job at the Tuskegee Institute to fill the teaching post in central Ohio.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Cedarville, Ohio, is just minutes from two HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities). Wilberforce University and Central State sit next to one another on the same road as our house 4.5 miles away. Moving from a metropolitan area to the middle of the cornfields of central Ohio, I assumed the diversity my family treasured in Louisville would be entirely lost.
But it is amazing how far these few miles can seem. I’m praying for a greater connection with what is going on on their campus and am thankful to have recently developed a friendship with a professor from the school. I’m grateful for the work of so many great pastors, scholars, and donors, who sacrificially invested their lives in making Wilberforce a reality. If you come to visit our campus at Cedarville University, I’d encourage you to stop down the street on your way here and see their history for yourself.