Haygood Seminary was a Mecca for educational and vocational training for newly freed African Americans from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.
Image Credit: www.wikipedia.com
After the Civil War (1861 - 1865), former slave John Williamson saw the need for the education of all ex-slaves. Williamson, the former slave of Reverend Samuel Williamson of the Presbyterian Church in Washington and an admirer of Bishop Atticus Green Haygood, a supporter of black education and leader in the Methodist Episcopal Church, believed in the merit and influence of a religious education. So, in 1893 he founded the Haygood Seminary (a.k.a. Haygood Academy) near Washington, Arkansas. At Haygood, Williamson planned to educate preachers and teachers who would, in turn, educate the rest of the local African American population.
Williamson, who was a member of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (CME), pushed his local church to support Haygood. Haygood was built on ten acres of land just ten miles southwest of Washington. Soon after the first building, a two-story, wooden frame schoolhouse, was erected on the property. Early supporters of the seminary included Henry Bullock, the president of the board of trustees during the early years.
In the spring of 1894, Bradley R. Williamson, Oliver Mitchell, and Frank Carter became the first recorded graduates at Haygood. In the 1890s the seminary expanded in an effort to educate elementary students. With the addition of these students the seminary grew quickly. By 1894, Haygood had become one of the premiere educational institutions for African Americans in the region between Philander Smith College in Little Rock and Texas College in Tyler, Texas. Haygood’s property was valued at $5,000, roughly equivalent to $172,273.84 today.
In the fall of 1894, Rev. George L. Tyus became Haygood Seminary’s new president. Tyus was a very accomplished and educated man, having become the first African American in southwest Arkansas to earn a college degree after graduating from Paine College in Augusta, Georgia. During his time as president, he acquired a seventy-acre farm that allowed him to expand the campus and offer vocational training at Haygood. Several buildings were erected to enhance the vocational education program, including a laundry, a blacksmith shop, and an industrial hall where students were trained in millinery (women’s hat-making), carpentry, brick masonry, and sewing. Many students worked on the farm or in the vocational fields to pay their way through school. By this time, Haygood Seminary had adopted Booker T. Washington’s educational philosophy, which stated that African Americans should learn a trade and work diligently at it. In 1905, Tyus Hall, a two-story, twelve room girl’s dormitory was also built at the seminary to house female students from all over the South. A boy’s dormitory was built some time later. In 1910, Tyus left Haygood to become president of Texas College.
On February 8, 1915, a fire destroyed both dormitories and the laundry building . By then, the CME Church in Arkansas felt the school should be moved to a better location that could support a higher number of students. Moten, a town five miles south of Pine Bluff, proved to be just the place they needed. The school purchased 300 acres of land there and founded the Arkansas-Haygood Industrial College. The first classes started in the fall of 1922.
Haygood Seminary continued to educate students in Washington. In 1921, the seminary built Williamson’s Hall, which consisted of twelve rooms on the second floor and ten rooms on the first floor including a dining room. By 1927, the school had completely relocated to Moten and Haygood was sold to the Washington Public School District. Lincoln High School, established at the former Haygood black campus, became the first public school in Washington. In 1955, Williamson's Hall, the last remnant of the Haygood campus, was demolished.
Haygood Seminary continued as Arkansas-Haygood Industrial College at its new location in Moten. African Americans across the state of Arkansas received vocational and education training. Arkansas-Haygood Industrial College was officially closed during World War II (1914 -1918).
Williams, J. (2014). Washington. (pp 50 - 52). United States: Arcadia Publishing Incorporated.
Written by: Ninfa O. Barnard