Ashmun Institute Chartered in 1854

Born in Champlain, New York, Jehudi Ashmun was a social reformer who became deeply involved in the American Colonization Society. He went on to serve as the US representative to the Liberian colony in its second decade and eventually its governor from 1824-1828.

He helped create a constitution for Liberia that enabled blacks to hold positions in the government. This was unlike what happened in the neighboring British colony of Sierra Leone, which was dominated by whites although founded for the resettlement of free blacks from Britain and Upper Canada. Ashmun’s letters home and his book, History of the American Colony in Liberia, 1821-1823 (1826) constitute the earliest written history of the Liberia colony.

In 1854 Rev. John Miller Dickey, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife, Sarah Emlen Cresson, a Quaker, founded Ashmun Institute, later named Lincoln University. They named it after Jehudi Ashmun. They founded the school specifically for the education of African Americans, who had few opportunities for higher education. The Pennsylvania legislature granted its charter on April 29, 1854.

Class of 1916

While providing for the education of black students, the intitution also hosted lectures and groups dedicated to the abolition of slavery in the United States.

In 1866, Ashmun Institute was renamed Lincoln University after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

The college has always attracted highly talented students from numerous states, especially during the long decades of legal segregation in the South.

Notes from Lincoln University


Dear Sir,

In looking around me and seeing everyday the exemplification of some great truth, the elaboration of some weighty principle, or the consummation of a mighty work, I cannot but thank god for sparing me to see a time so momentous as this nineteenth century; fraught, as it is, with progress and revolution.

The history of this age will read, no doubt, like a romance to future generations, and they will wonder how such things could be. In it, not only do inventions and authorship’s stand as never crumbling monuments to man’s wisdom and power, but noble schemes and philanthropy ideas have been conceived, perfected, and hurried to a glorious end; giving joy to many a household, and causing thanksgiving in many a heart. This is, beyond a doubt, set forth in the constantly increasing desire among all nations to abhor and discontinue making capital of human flesh, and in the establishment of great educational centers everywhere.

As a fair example of this latter class-of the philanthropy of man, and the goodness of God working in his Heart-Lincoln University stands prominent. Far-seeing men, and men of intellect do not judge of the character of an educational institution by the number of buildings it has erected, or the exquisiteness of its appointments, but by the quality and amount of work it does. This stands preeminent, not only because it is right and proper that it should do so, but because, like truth itself, its cuts its way.

Lincoln University has done a work, is doing a work, and I hope and trust will continue doing a work, which will cause thousands to bless her for the propagation of truth, and the dissemination of knowledge. In the “dark days” as Ashmun Institute she took as her motto, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand,” and as Lincoln University her day has been breaking more and more brightly, until soon we may look for her horizon to be one halo of glory, and from foundation to dome she will reflect the sun of wisdom in all its brightness.

The friends of the University, who are many and influential, wishing to catch us in our busy season, and to find out for themselves how great were the educational facilities and advantages, came here with their friends on Thursday, Nov. 21, and after having examined the various departments, seemed to have been much pleased.

Dr. Rendall, President of the University, working on the principle that seeing, generally, is believing, gave them a practical illustration of what the institution is doing, by having four members, two Seniors and two Juniors to deliver original orations. The first speaker, Wm. Dr. Roberson of NC spoke with eloquence, receiving immense applause at the close. His subject was the “Moral Influence of a Busy Life.” The second speaker, Lewis K. Atwood of Penn., followed in an address, which was excellent. His subject was “Changes in our Literature.” The third speaker was Moses Hopkins, of VA. He spoke with force. His subject was the “Dignity of Labor.” The forth and last speaker, Wm. H. Ash of R.I. was fitly chosen to close the exercises.

His subject was the “Necessity of State Education.” Among our distinguished guests were Judge Stroud of this State, author of “Compendium of Slave Laws,” and for many years a staunch friend to the negro; ex-Governor Pollock, who signed the charter for the establishment of this University; United States Senator Cameron, State Senator Waddell, Prof. Wickersham, Hon. Washington Townsend, United States Representative in Congress, Pres. Wood of the Baltimore Central, Rev. Dr. Hotchkin, and others, most of whom made short addresses of congratulation and encouragement. In the intervals the Glee Club and organist of the University furnished interesting music. The affair was one, which will abide with us for a long time.


Collection: African American Newspapers
Date: December 14, 1872
Title: Notes from Lincoln University
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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