Before the end of the Civil War, both black and white students worked and studied on the campus of Berea College in Kentucky. After thirty-nine years of integrated education, the Kentucky Legislature forced Berea to abandon this successful but controversial approach to education. State Representative Carl Day convinced his colleagues that integrated education should be outlawed in 1904.
After losing the battle over the Day Law when the United States Supreme Court ruled it constitutional, the trustees of Berea College pondered the future of its institution. In addition to continuing to educate the Appalachian whites, the trustees decided to establish a new institution to serve the needs of black students. A challenge grant of $200,000 from Andrew Carnegie allowed trustees to raise twice that amount. The trustees purchased three farms in Shelby County, Kentucky totaling 444.4 acres as the site of the Lincoln Institute, named after President Abraham Lincoln.
In 1910, the Lincoln Foundation was established to oversee and manage the assets of the Lincoln Institute located in Lincoln Ridge. On October 1, 1912, Lincoln Institute opened its doors to eighty-five students. The first President was Dr. A. Eugene Thomson. The educational philosophy of the Lincoln Institute centered on the need for adequate leadership of African Americans in both schools and churches. Vocational education and cultural values were stressed and Lincoln offered the first course of study in maintenance engineering.
In 1935, J. Mansir Tydings and Whitney M. Young, Sr. conceived and implemented the “Faith Plan,” which raised money and recruited new students enabling Lincoln Institute to continue to thrive. Mr. Tydings was hired as the business manager of Lincoln Institute and later became the first President of the Lincoln Foundation.
Under the leadership of President Whitney M. Young, Sr., Lincoln became a prominent boarding school for blacks. Dr. Young served as the educational leader for over forty years. He was the first black President of Lincoln Institute.
Following the 1954 United States Supreme Court ruling that outlawed separate but equal schools, Lincoln experienced a steady decline in enrollment. After more than fifty years of education, Lincoln Institute held its final graduation in 1966. The same year, Lincoln School, an integrated school for gifted students, opened. Community pressure and the state’s ambivalence toward education for gifted students led to the closing of the Lincoln School in 1970 with the graduation of one class. The U.S. Department of Labor currently leases 54 acres of the campus from the Lincoln Foundation for the operation of the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Job Corps Center.
In 1972, under the leadership of former Lincoln Institute teacher and Lincoln School headmaster, Dr. Samuel Robinson, the Lincoln Foundation continued to carry on the legacy of the Lincoln Institute and Lincoln School by operating year round non-traditional educational programming for academically talented, economically disadvantaged youth. Dr. Robinson created the Whitney M. YOUNG Scholars Program® in 1990 in recognition of the educational achievements and leadership of both Drs. Whitney M. Young, Sr. and Jr. The Whitney M. YOUNG Scholars Program®, started by our President Emeritus, is the signature educational program of the Lincoln Foundation.
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