In 1873, State senator John Middleton Clayton sponsored a legislative act calling for the establishment of Branch Normal College, but it was not until 1875 that the state’s economic situation was secure enough to proceed with it. That year, Branch Normal was established as a branch of Arkansas Industrial University, now the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Its primary objective was educating

black students to become teachers

for the state’s black schools.

Governor Augustus Hill Garland, Arkansas Industrial University board chairman D. E. Jones, and Professor Wood Thompson hired Joseph Carter Corbin in July 1875 to make a determination about locating Branch Normal in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) because of the town’s large black population and its place as the major economic center in south-central Arkansas. Corbin was subsequently elected as principal at a salary of $1,000 a year. The first class consisted of seven students. During the year, seventy-five to eighty students were enrolled, but the average attendance was forty-five to fifty the last three months of the school year.

Several setbacks occurred that delayed the actual opening of the school. The first building was an old frame house in need of much repair, but repairs were delayed because of illness among the workers. Lumber and furniture were ordered for the new building, but the boat carrying them sank in the river.

The first location for the Normal School was a one story frame house built to serve as a barrack and located on the corner of Lindsey and Sevier streets (now Second Avenue and Oak Street). The school opened on September 27, 1875 with seven students in attendance. Corbin described these students as scholastically heterogeneous – one could read very well but not write legibly. Others knew enough mathematics to cipher through ratio and proportion, but were reading at less than first grade level. The students entering Branch Normal College were certainly disadvantaged since: 1.) They and their parents were just ten years removed from slavery and 2.) “Few” if any preparatory schools of proper character had existed prior to this time in the State.

In June 1882, after seven years, Corbin reported with great pride that “The first colored student that ever graduated and received a college degree in the State was graduated from Branch Normal College. Between 1882 and 1895 ten students would receive the Bachelor of Arts degree before the reduction of the collegiate program at Branch Normal.





1873: The university traces its roots back to 1873 when it was established as Branch Normal College, a department of Arkansas Industrial University (now the University of Arkansas) to train African American teachers.

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Early 20th century: Under the leadership of its president, Joseph Carter Corbin, AM&N experienced growth and development.

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1927: The first permanent building, Carver Hall, was constructed on campus

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1972: AM&N College became part of the University of Arkansas System and changed its name to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB).

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1991: Following the resignation of Chancellor Charles A. Walker during the summer of 1991, Dr. Carolyn Blakely served as interim chancellor, becoming the first female to head UAPB in its 130th history. Dr. L. A. Davis, Jr. was appointed chancellor in November 1991.

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2013 – Dr. Laurence B. Alexander is selected as UAPB’s next Chancellor, making him the first permanent chancellor since Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, Jr. who served for 21 years.

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Click here for a complete list of university milestones to include with each period on the existing timeline.