Paul Quinn College

By: Douglas Hales

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: September 24, 2020

Paul Quinn College, the oldest African-American liberal arts college in Texas, was founded in Austin in 1872 by several circuit-riding preachers of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Originally, its classes were held in churches and people's homes, but in 1877 the school moved into its own building after moving to Waco. Named after the fourth bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, William Paul Quinn, the college received its official state charter in 1881. In 1990 the school moved to Dallas, taking over the campus of the defunct Bishop College. The original purpose of the school was to teach industrial skills such as blacksmithing and carpentry to former slaves. In 1882 the college was housed in one three-story building and offered elementary, secondary, and college courses. Under the leadership of Bishop Richard H. Cain in the early twentieth century, the school grew into a twenty-two-acre college campus and offered students an opportunity for either an industrial or liberal arts education. The school's growth stopped in the 1930s with the onset of the Great Depression. When A. J. Jackson became college president in 1932, enrollment had dropped to only 125 students and the college's debt burden was about $42,000. Jackson enlisted students and staff to restore and maintain the buildings and physical plant of the college. He also organized Progressive Clubs, consisting of a combination of alumni and friends of the college, to direct fund-raising efforts. By 1936, $10,500 had been paid on the debt and enrollment exceeded 300. Like many other small private colleges, Paul Quinn College survived the Depression through cooperation with other colleges. For example, Prairie View, the state's public African-American college, taught courses on the Paul Quinn College campus. In recognition of the improvements to the campus and the curriculum, the Texas department of education granted accreditation in 1938. By the 1950s, the school had five buildings and three academic divisions-Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences. Students could earn either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree.

Because of the integration of Texas universities, as well as the growth of Baylor University and Waco Community College, Paul Quinn College, like many other African-American colleges in the mid-1980s, began to suffer financial difficulties from reduced enrollment. After the 1988 closing of another predominantly Black institution, Bishop College of Dallas, and its 1990 purchase at auction by African-American businessman Comer S. Cottrell, Paul Quinn College was offered the opportunity to move to the Bishop campus in hopes of building its enrollment and facilities. Through the combined efforts of the United Negro College Fund and corporate sponsors such as Frito Lay and Pro-Line, the college moved to the 132-acre Dallas location in September 1990. During this time the college supported schools in the arts and sciences, education, general studies, and professional studies. Students could earn B.A., B.S., or Bachelor of Applied Science degrees in the divisions of Arts and Sciences, Education, and Professional Studies. The school also developed cooperative degree programs with Texas State Technical College, Eastfield College, and the University of Texas at Dallas. Paul Quinn College is supervised by a twenty-six-member board of trustees, chaired by the presiding prelate of the A.M.E. Church. In 2010 Michael J. Sorrell was president, enrollment was 441 students, and the faculty numbered fifty-five.

Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1, 1991, November 11, 1992. Dallas Morning News, February 24, July 2, 1990. Michael R. Heintze, Private Black Colleges in Texas, 1865–1954 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1985). David Alvernon Williams, History of Higher Education for Black Texans, 1872–1977 (Ed.D dissertation, Baylor University, 1977).

  • Education
  • Private Four-Year Colleges and Universities
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Religion
  • Methodist
Time Periods:
  • Reconstruction
  • Central Texas
  • Austin
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Douglas Hales, “Paul Quinn College,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 24, 2020

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