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Schedule of Events

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Tuesday | April 25

Growing the Pride Assembly | (11:00 a.m.)
Kenneth L. Johnson, Sr. HPER Complex

Vesper Choir Talent Show | (7:00 p.m.)
J.M. Ross Theater | Hathaway-Howard Fine Arts Building

Wednesday | April 26

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Mary E. Benjamin Conference on Educational Access 
(8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
STEM Conference Center | Register now>>

Thursday | April 27

Honors/Awards Assembly and Convocation | 10:00 a.m.
Kenneth L. Johnson, Sr. HPER Complex

Friday | April 28

Art Sale | 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
J.M. Ross Theater | Hathaway-Howard Fine Arts Building

Alumni Senior Mixer | 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Henderson-Young Hall

UAPB Jazz Concert | 7:00 p.m.
J.M. Ross Theater | Hathaway-Howard Fine Arts Building

2017 ROTC Military Banquet | 6:00 p.m.
STEM Conference Center

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Saturday | April 29

Alumni Association Walk-a-thon
Registration: 8:00 a.m.
Lake Saracen
For more information, call (870) 536-2309

“Roaring for the Community” Service Event | 8:00 a.m.
Meet at the L.A. Davis, Sr. Student Lounge
For more information, call Christopher Ogburn at (870) 820-8046

Black and Gold Game | 1:00 p.m.
Golden Lion Stadium

Sunday | April 30

Sunrise Service | 6:30 a.m.
Cross-Phipps Auditorium | Caldwell Hall

Alumni Breakfast (immediately after Sunrise Service)
STEM Conference Center

Founders Celebration is a tradition that has been going on for over 60 years, blending academics, social activities, and history in an effort to communicate not only the history of the University, but also the importance of remembering how history built the school into what it is today. The formal celebration of Founders Day can be dated back to 1943, during the administration of Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, Sr. The original chairman of the celebration, Butler T. Henderson, was head of the department of business and economics. In charge of a celebration that originally lasted a full week, Henderson made sure the activities during this time were varied and culturally rich, all while showing the growth that Arkansas AM&N had achieved.

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Meet the Founder

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" "Joseph Carter Corbin was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, on March 26, 1833, the eldest son of free black parents, William and Susan Corbin. He had eleven siblings. He attended school during the winter months, a common practice at the time.

In 1848, Corbin traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, to assist Reverend Henry A. Adams as a teacher. He taught school for some years and then attended Ohio University at Athens. He graduated with a BA in art in 1853 and an MA in art in 1856. An honorary doctoral degree was later conferred on Corbin by an unknown Baptist institution in the South. According to some sources, Corbin worked as a messenger in the Bank of Ohio Valley at Cincinnati and edited and published a newspaper, The Colored Citizen, for eight years.

On September 11, 1866, Corbin married Mary J. Ward, a Kentucky native, in Cincinnati. They had six children, two of whom lived to adulthood. In 1872, the family moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, where Corbin worked as a reporter for the Arkansas Republican and later as chief clerk in the Little Rock Post Office.

From 1873 to 1875, Corbin served as Arkansas’s superintendent of public instruction and, by virtue of holding that office, was president of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees. As president, he signed the contract for the construction of University Hall (now called Old Main), which was the first building at the University of Arkansas. It was very unusual for a black man to hold such a position during that time, but he was qualified and connected with the Republican Party establishment in power then in the South.

Corbin later taught mathematics, according to the best available evidence, for two years at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, beginning in the fall of 1874. Corbin had worked on legislation to create a college in Arkansas for black students. That legislation was adopted in 1873, but there was no time to put it into operation because Reconstruction was overthrown with the Brooks-Baxter War of 1874 and Republican state officials lost their jobs. Corbin did not sell his house in Little Rock, and when he was vacationing there, then-U.S. Attorney General Augustus H. Garland (later governor) encouraged him to open Branch Normal College of the Arkansas Industrial University in Jefferson County. In 1875, Corbin was appointed principal of Branch Normal, a position he held until 1902. The school is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

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While at Branch Normal, he conducted teacher training institutes in Arkansas and Oklahoma, under the state superintendent of public schools, believing that such courses inspired teachers to improve and gave them the opportunity to see exhibitions and new methods of teaching. With R. C. Childress, a teacher at Branch Normal, Corbin formed the Teachers of Negro Youth, the first state association for black teachers, in 1898. Corbin was the first president of that organization. Twenty years after his death, the organization became known as the Arkansas Teachers Association, which, after integration, merged with the Arkansas Education Association in 1969.

Branch Normal’s enrollment grew from seven students in 1875 to 241 by 1894. A two-story brick building with classrooms and an assembly hall was constructed. A dormitory for girls was also built, and an industrial department was established with courses in sewing, typing, and printing. These were added between 1880 and 1900. Corbin’s daughter worked as the sewing and industrial teacher for women, and his wife taught art at the school. Corbin himself wrote articles on mathematics and constructed mathematical puzzles that were published in Barnes’ Educational School Visitors, the Mathematical Visitor, the Mathematical Magazine, and the Mathematical Gazette.

Corbin spoke and read Greek, Latin, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, and Danish. He seems to have taught himself because he was very interested in languages. He taught Greek and Latin at Branch Normal until the curriculum was modified in 1889. He played and taught students to play piano, organ, and flute and trained the Normal School choir, which was featured at every commencement. A civic-minded man, Corbin served as secretary and third Grand Master of the Arkansas chapter of the Prince Hall Masons and as vice president of the Colored Industrial Fair.

Corbin experienced conflict with the Board of Trustees of Branch Normal as well as the state legislature, which recommended he be fired in April of 1893 because of an investigation into alleged financial mismanagement of the school. He was dismissed in 1902. In 1905, he became principal of Merrill Public School in Pine Bluff.

Corbin died on January 9, 1911, in Pine Bluff and is buried in Chicago, Illinois.

Source: Encyclopedia of Arkansas History

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How It All Began

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In 1873, State senator John Middleton Clayton sponsored a legislative act calling for the establishment of Branch Normal College, but it was not until 1875 that the state’s economic situation was secure enough to proceed with it. That year, Branch Normal was established as a branch of Arkansas Industrial University, now the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Its primary objective was educating black students to become teachers for the state’s black schools. Governor Augustus Hill Garland, Arkansas Industrial University board chairman D. E. Jones, and Professor Wood Thompson hired Joseph Carter Corbin in July 1875 to make a determination about locating Branch Normal in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) because of the town’s large black population and its place as the major economic center in south-central Arkansas. Corbin was subsequently elected as principal at a salary of $1,000 a year. The first class consisted of seven students. During the year, seventy-five to eighty students were enrolled, but the average attendance was forty-five to fifty the last three months of the school year.

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Several setbacks occurred that delayed the actual opening of the school. The first building was an old frame house in need of much repair, but repairs were delayed because of illness among the workers. Lumber and furniture were ordered for the new building, but the boat carrying them sank in the river.

The first location for the Normal School was a one story frame house built to serve as a barrack and located on the corner of Lindsey and Sevier streets (now Second Avenue and Oak Street). The school opened on September 27, 1875 with seven students in attendance. Corbin described these students as scholastically heterogeneous - one could read very well but not write legibly. Others knew enough mathematics to cipher through ratio and proportion, but were reading at less than first grade level. The students entering Branch Normal College were certainly disadvantaged since: 1.) They and their parents were just ten years removed from slavery and 2.) "Few" if any preparatory schools of proper character had existed prior to this time in the State.

In June 1882, after seven years, Corbin reported with great pride that "The first colored student that ever graduated and received a college degree in the State was graduated from Branch Normal College. Between 1882 and 1895 ten students would receive the Bachelor of Arts degree before the reduction of the collegiate program at Branch Normal.

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