Berea College, a college dedicated to interracial, affordable education

Thu, 1855-07-26

On this date in 1855, we celebrate the founding of Berea College, the oldest continually integrated college in America.

Located in Berea, KY, its spiritual foundation, "God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth," has shaped its culture and programs. Founder John G. Fee, a passionate abolitionist, declared that Berea was founded "in the midst of many privations and persecutions to preach and apply a gospel of impartial love...." Guided by this inclusive Christian message, Berea's founders had a vision of a college and a community committed to interracial education in the Appalachian region.

This heritage compelled Berea College to serve all persons regardless of race, creed, color, gender, or class and led the college to draw its students from two immediate communities: African-Americans freed by the American Civil War and "loyal" white mountaineers. Guided by a self-help philosophy, Berea has long been committed to seeking out promising low-income people in the mountains of Central and Southern Appalachia and provide them with a tuition-free education. A significant distinction in the Berea mission is that rather than following the typical tuition-based model, the college early on developed a work program so that its students could take advantage of a private liberal arts education--a tuition-free education otherwise unaffordable to them.

Today, 80 percent of Berea's students come from Kentucky and the Appalachian region; the remainder come from the rest of the United States and from around the world. In recent years, more than 12 percent of the college's students are African-Americans. In 2000, international students who represent over 68 countries were seven percent of the student population. Such diversity reveals Berea's openness to all people and prepares Berea students for living in a multicultural world. Supporting single parents in their academic and personal development also echoes Berea's history of rejecting divisions based on class and gender.

Berea College,
Berea, Kentucky 40404