Knoxville College: Where is the Light?

Built in 1877, McKee Hall sits boarded up. Photos by Vivian Shipe

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — Once one of the top HBCU’s in the country,  Knoxville College, has been silenced.

Entrance way to the college.

The college sets on  22 acres of prime land and has some of the most spectacular views of Knoxville. It is one of the oldest black colleges and was formed in 1875. It was the first African American college in East Tennessee and many of the buildings were built by the first students to attend; many of them former slaves.

Over the years there have been many attempts to restore the college and get it reaccredited so that it  can reopen. Rick Staples, Tennessee State Representative for District 15  has stepped up and has taken the  lead on that prospect  by opening conversations with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. and people are once again hopeful.

Not all the plans are pleasing to the community surrounding the college. The most recent plan by the city of Knoxville has created a lot of questions and controversy as community members, former students and educators are asking a lot of questions and no one is answering them 

McMillan Chapel standing since 1913.

The controversy arose with Mayor Rogero announcing a M.O.U. intent on using  a section of the acreage to open a 40 million dollar combined training  center for the fire and  police departnent The MOU for this plan  is contingent on Knoxville College resolving financial debts.

Along with the confusion from the announcement last week, which came as a surprise that the deal had already been worked out, has been the fear of the city building a jail on the property and despite the announcement that this was false, the rumor has not been quenched. The community is asking for community meetings 

One major problem is none of the trustees over the college live in Knoxville and have not announced what is to become of the rest of the property.

When asked about the deal announced by the the city, Council woman Gwen McKenzie did respond with the following statement.

“I am hopeful Knoxville College will resolve their financial debt in order for the MOU to move forward. Once this critical step is completed, the city will schedule community meetings for input and we have also asked the KC board to attend to share their vision for the school and to answer questions” 

In the meantime, tension is growing and one of the greatest African American colleges lies dormant, waiting to once again  fly the the blue and garnet colors of the Knoxville College Bulldogs…to once again, be a guiding light.

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