Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Gerald Smith


This dissertation focuses on the African American Baptist church as a vital architect of black higher education in Kentucky. In keeping with the historiography of black education, my research focuses on the often-forgotten component of religion and its impact on the development of post-secondary education. More specifically, my work explores the dynamics of race, class and gender in shaping the origins of black higher learning institutions in the state. I contend that Kentucky was home to a growing and progressive African American middle class who sought racial uplift to solve the “negro problem" through education. I also reveal that African American religious leaders in Kentucky served as examples for other African Americans who were promoting black higher education during the period of segregation.

As a border state, Kentucky offers a unique opportunity to examine the educational challenges and opportunities African Americans faced during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Kentucky was home to one of the few African American Baptist controlled institutions in the nation, Simmons College. Therefore, this study offers historians an expanded lens for analyzing African American agency in developing higher learning initiatives while combating racial inequality in a state with a reputation for poorly funding public education.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)