Hidden History: Legacy of Paul Quinn College

DALLAS, Texas - The oldest historical black college in Texas started in Austin. As it grew, it planted roots in Waco.
It has changed locations again since then.

Paul Quinn College is now in Dallas, and it is catapulting higher learning into the future.

"You are hard pressed to touch the black middle class in Waco, and not touch Paul Quinn College," says President Michael Sorrell.

The campus moved to Waco from Austin in 1877, and was renamed Bishop William Paul Quinn. The alternative black school focused primarily on vocational training - although it did offer theology, English, Latin, music and math. 

In the late 1980's, African-American businessmen presented Paul Quinn with the opportunity to take the campus north to a more urban market with the hope of revitalizing campus life.

Quinn seized this opportunity and moved to the Dallas campus in September 1990 - where it became one of the most innovative schools in the country.

"They gave us the freedom to sort of blow everything up and create what we think modern higher education should look like," Sorrell says.

When Sorrel arrived in 2007, the campus had only months to stay open. He changed all of this.

"So that meant we were in a food desert," Sorrell says. "So we turned the football field into a farm so we could highlight food insecurity issues. We fought over environmental justice issues. We cut tuition by $10,000 and created a model where students can graduate owing less than $10,000 for a four-year college degree."

What's left of the old campus in Waco is now Rappaport Academy - but its history continues to influence young people. 

"Being born in Waco, a lot of people I looked up to - mentors, teachers, principals and even some relatives of mine were students at Paul Quinn College," says Paul Quinn College Student Assistant Carnealus Manning.

"40 percent of our students come from outside the state of Texas. 23 percent of our students are Latino. So we are America's historically black college now. We have a whole different swagger than we ever did before," Sorrell says.

As a now nationally-recognized school, Paul Quinn is the first urban work college in the country. 

If you want to learn about more iconic African-Americans making their mark on Central Texas, you can join us this Sunday at 1:30 p.m. on FOX 44 as we celebrate Black History Month. You can also visit the Hidden History page of our website here

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