north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     Immanuel Lutheran College grew out of a desire of the Lutheran Church to provide educational opportunities for the African American community in North Carolina. Church leaders believed that a school was needed to train black ministers and teachers and, in response to the need, the North Carolina Synod pledged funding to construct facilities in 1904. However, a forward-thinking white minister, Reverend Niels Bakke, had already started an enterprise to educate young male students in 1903. Bakke’s first school began with only five students in Concord but, with funding from the Synod, it grew and moved into temporary facilities in Greensboro in 1905 and then into its own permanent buildings on a thirteen- acre campus in 1907, the same year the school had its first graduates.

     Immanuel began to regularly graduate black teachers and ministers and, by 1927, sixteen members of the Church’s mission board were Immanuel College alumni. The school boasted a seminary, college, and four-year high school. The creation of a school to train black ministers was a boon to the Lutheran Church in North Carolina since black leadership led to the creation of new congregations and revival of older ones. By 1927, there were over 1,300 black Lutherans in North Carolina. The 1920’s were the high point of Lutheran Church missionary work and black membership. The membership boom slowed in the 1930s.

     By 1955, Immanuel was owned and operated by the Synodical Conference of North America and most of its funding was derived from the Lutheran Church. It had a faculty of ten with an average student enrollment of 100, producing about thirty graduates per year from the high school, seminary, and junior college combined. The school was a driving force in the education of black leaders in Piedmont North Carolina. Despite the school’s success, the Lutheran Church chose to close the school in 1961, disposing of all property and buildings as quickly as possible. The buildings eventually were purchased by the growing North Carolina State Agricultural and Technical College in 1965 and some are still found on the school’s east campus. Founder Bakke served the school as president until 1910. After he left, four other presidents served the college until it closed.

     
References:
Ethel S. Arnett, Greensboro, North Carolina: The County Seat of Guilford (1955)
Greensboro Record, July 26, 1979
William H. Kampschmidt, “A Final Word,” The Red and White (May 1961)
“The History of Black Lutherans in the Carolinas and Virginia,” unpublished manuscript, copy in the Research Branch, North Carolina Office of Archives and History
Immanuel Lutheran College Collection, Greensboro Historical Museum
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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