Copyright notice

This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Is anything in this article factually incorrect? Please submit a comment.

Printer-friendly page

North Carolina Central University

by Charles W. Wadelington, 2006

See also: Historically Black Colleges and Universities for K-8 Students

James Shepard statue at NCCU. Image courtesy of NC Office of Archives & History. North Carolina Central University in Durham was the first state-supported liberal arts college for African American students in North Carolina. It was chartered as a private institution in 1909 and opened its doors to students in July 1910. Its founder, James E. Shepard, served as its first president. In the beginning the college was known as the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua. Its purpose was the development of young African American men and women into citizens with fine character and sound academic training.

In 1915 the school was sold and reorganized as the National Training School. During this period Mrs. Russell Sage, a wealthy New York philanthropist, was a generous contributor to the school. In 1923 the General Assembly appropriated funds for the purchase and maintenance of the school, making it a publicly supported institution that operated as the Durham State Normal School. Two years later the legislature again renamed the college, and it became the North Carolina College for Negroes. Its mission was to offer African American youth of the region a liberal arts education and prepare graduates to become future teachers and principals of secondary schools.

The school graduated its first class as a four-year college in 1929 as a result of the sincere interest of Governor Angus W. McLean, generous gifts from Durham industrialist and philanthropist Benjamin N. Duke, and contributions from Durham citizens. In 1930 state appropriations made it possible for the school to expand its physical plant and improve its educational facilities. By 1939 the General Assembly authorized the establishment of graduate work in liberal arts and the professions. The School of Law began operation in 1940, and the School of Library Science was created in 1941. Because of this growth and expansion, the legislature changed the name of the institution to North Carolina College at Durham.

In 1969 the legislature again changed the name of the college to reflect its new university status. In 1972 North Carolina Central University became a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina System. The university in the early 2000s enrolled nearly 6,000 students earning degrees in a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate programs on its 100-acre campus.

Educator Resources:

Grades K-8:


William S. Powell, Higher Education in North Carolina (1970).

Elizabeth J. Seay, "A History of North Carolina College for Negroes" (M.A. thesis, Duke University, 1941).

Additional Resources:

North Carolina Central University:

NC Highway Historical Marker G-53:

Search results for 'North Carolina Central University' in NC Digital Collections:

NCCU contributions to NC Digital Collections:

Gershenhorn, Jerry. “Stalling Integration: The Ruse, Rise, and Demise of North Carolina College’s Doctoral Program in Education, 1951-1962.” The North Carolina Historical Review 82, no. 2 (2005): 156–92.

Image Credit:

NC Highway Historical Marker G-53. Courtesy of NC Office of Archives and History: (accessed November 16, 2012).



do you have PTA


Just want to make the comment that the NCCU Nursing Program is amazing. I received my training and education from NCCU and successfully completed the RN Nursing Program years ago and received the best education you could ever ask for! I went to NCCU from 1994-1998, graduated in May 1998, took the NCLEX (nursing license exam) and passed the first time around! Went into the Navy and practiced successfully for 10 years! I felt amazingly prepared and knowledgeable coming out of NCCU Nursing Program. I eventually went on to get my MSW and now practice as a psychotherapist/LCSW always still utilizing my nursing knowledge and experience. Thank you NCCU Nursing Department...I hope you are finally a School of Nursing!
Stephanie Hargraves Ellis


What is this school like now?


Hey! Thank you for your question! Here is the link to their homepage with a ton of information!


Kelly, Government and Heritage Library


Do you have a Physical Therapy Program or PTA program?


Hi Byron,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia.  It sounds like you are interested in connecting with NC Central University to find out about their current programs.  Here is a link to their website:

I hope this helps!  Please post back if you need additional help.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at