A Touch of Greatness
A History of Tennessee State University
by Bobby L. Lovett
- Collections: African-American History
- Tags: Nashville
The Tennessee General Assembly authorized "Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State Normal School for Negroes" in 1909 and opened with 250 students and three buildings in 1912. Depending heavily on donations from local Negroes and grants from philanthropic and federal agencies, the school graduated its first class in 1924, built collegiate-level facilities between 1927 and 1934, and achieved university designation in 1951. Tennessee A&I felt the oppression of a Jim Crow (de jure racial segregation) society until lawsuits forced the state to respect the "separate but equal" US Supreme Court decision of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). After the civil rights movement and several lawsuits, the federal court merged the UT-Nashville campus into Tennessee State University in 1979. TSU has outgrown its Jim Crow legacy, and thrives as a racially diversified, comprehensive urban land-grant research doctoral-level institution with nearly 9,000 students.