The University of Alabama was founded in 1820 as a public research institution. It is the flagship of the University of Alabama System and the largest among the public universities in Alabama. It holds the only publicly sponsored law school in the entire state. The university offers several degree programs as well as programs that are not available in other universities such as communication and information sciences, social work, and music.
The University of Alabama played a substantial role in the cultural aspect of the state, being among the first public institutions founded in the 19th century. The university became a venue for a lot of activities during the American Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement.
We can trace the origins of the University of Alabama when the newly-founded Alabama Territory was authorized to choose a portion of the land and make the “seminary of learning.” In December 1819, Alabama became a member of the Union and added a second township to the land grant. The seminary was constructed in December 1820 and was called the University of the State of Alabama. It was overseen by the Board of Trustees who chose William Nichols to design the campus. The university began to accept students in 1831 with Alva Woods, as its president.
The institution focused heavily on the classics and the natural sciences. In the 1830s, the university admitted more than a hundred students each school year. Unfortunately, the university did not have enough infrastructures to accommodate its growing number of students because most of its territory was still under some Native Americans’ ownership. Hence, it wasn’t able to provide comprehensive education to its students in that time. Also, not all who enrolled in the early years continued in their studies. Only a few of the remaining students graduated later on. The ones who finished studies were able to have careers in national politics.
The university had a vigorous literary culture as it grows. In fact, it had one of the biggest libraries in the US during the Civil War. Some of the literary societies often had lectures that were done by distinguished people in the political and literary world. Some of the lecturers include William Gilmore, a novelist, and Supreme Court Justice John A. Campbell.
One of the significant issues the university had to face was student discipline and behavior. The early leaders tried to impose rules regarding ethical conduct. While there were rules about swearing, drinking, or playing musical instruments inside the campus, riots and gunfights became prevalent in the early years. In 1860, president Landon Garland campaigned for the transformation of the university into a military school as a way to battle the issue in discipline among its students.
The cadets who graduated from the university served in the Civil War as part of the Confederate Army. Union troops put the campus on fire as a way to get back to the university. Almost all buildings were burned down, with only four buildings surviving. It opened its doors once again in 1871. It was granted 40,000 acres of coal land in 1880 as part of the compensation for the war damages.
They began to accept female students in 1892, granted that they are above eighteen years old, and have completed their first year at another institution. They also need to pass an exam before they can become official students of the university. Five years later, women were allowed to enroll as first-year students.
The university did not allow black people to enroll until the 1960s. It was part of their attempt to end racial segregation in South America. Autherine Lucy was the first successful black enrollee on the campus. However, she was later on expelled after a series of violent rallies against her attendance in the university became widespread. It was only in 1963 when the university became successful in integrating their school.
The University of Alabama used to be a small campus with only seven buildings. But it has now grown to a large campus with 297 infrastructures on campus. It continues to acquire more land to accommodate its growing number of students. In 2010, it acquired the Bryce Hospital, which added 168 –acres of land to its already massive expanse.