Our History

Celebrating 150 years

Fayetteville State University's continued success is a testament to the tenacity of the spirit of seven black citizens and the black community of Fayetteville who established and supported the Howard School on November 29, 1867 for the purpose of educating black children.



By the numbers: Our campus is home to many students, representing a diverse range of backgrounds and interests, all pursuing their academic and personal goals with passion and purpose.



Our campus celebrates inclusivity and is proud to have a vibrant community of minority students, who bring unique perspectives and enrich our campus culture with their diverse experiences and contributions.


Female Students

Our campus is proud to have a student body that is 70% female, reflecting our commitment to promoting gender equality and empowering women to pursue their academic and career aspirations with confidence and success.


Students to Faculty

Our campus provides a personalized learning experience that fosters strong relationships between students and faculty, promotes academic excellence, and prepares students for success in their chosen fields.

Our History

In 1865, a "sophisticated" education agenda was already underway in Fayetteville's black community. Black citizens in Fayetteville were zealots for education and tried to have a school at Evans Chapel prior to 1865 but had problems with financial stability and space. After a request was made by John Sinclair Leary to the American Missionary Association (AMA) for a teacher, they sent Reverend Dickson whose tenure was cut short by illness.

Robert Harris was named the Superintendent of the AMA school in 1866 and appointed his brother Cicero Harris as his assistant.  Robert taught the intermediate level, which he called the Sumner School and assigned Cicero the primary grades, which he called the Phillips School. The curriculum at the schools emphasized fundamentals in reading, writing, practical math, and moral development. However financial stability and space were continuing problems due to the large number of schools the AMA was trying to support as well as the number of children and adults who wanted to be educated in Fayetteville.

Black citizens of Fayetteville decided to establish their own school for the education of their children. They held a meeting at Evans Chapel in November of 1867, and agreed to establish the Howard School, named after General Oliver Otis Howard, Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau.  They designated David A. Bryant, Nelson Carter, Andrew Jackson Chesnutt, George W. Grange, Sr., Matthew N. Leary, Jr., Thomas Lomax, and Robert H. Simmons, and their successors as Trustees.  On November 29, 1867, these seven men signed the deed and paid $136 to Robert Simmons and Henry McNeill for two lots on Gillespie Street so that the Freedmen's Bureau could build a school for the education of black children.    

Robert Harris became the first Chief Executive Officer of the school when he was designated as Principal of the Howard School. In addition to reading, writing, and math, he expanded the curriculum to include science and geography, trained students to serve as teachers in small rural schools in Cumberland and surrounding counties, and also taught evening and summer school classes, thus greatly increasing the number of blacks receiving an education in the county. The Howard School became the model for graded schools in North Carolina.

View a visual timeline of our history.

Senate Bill Number 472, known as the "Act to establish normal schools," which was ratified on March 8, 1877 by the state Senate, provided for the establishment of a teacher training institution for whites and one for blacks in North Carolina. One was established at UNC Chapel Hill and the Howard School was selected over fourteen other schools in North Carolina as the first State Colored Normal School, and also became one of the first public normal schools for blacks in the South.   

Robert Harris was named Principal of the State Colored Normal School in 1877, and selected Charles Chesnutt as his Assistant. The Normal School was taught in the three rooms on the second floor of the Howard School. A new curriculum was designed for teacher certification by the state. Harris also placed emphasis on character building and communicative skills.  

After visits from newspaper reporters, white civic groups, state officials, and Governor Vance, the State Colored Normal School at Fayetteville was given the stamp of approval. Vance stated that "it was as much a success as any man could expect."  Robert Harris died three years later in 1880.

Charles Waddell Chesnutt became the second Chief Executive Officer of the school when he was appointed Principal of the State Colored Normal School upon the death of Robert Harris. In addition to high academic achievements, he pushed students to have high ambitions, moral character, and good manners.  After three years in office, Chesnutt resigned in 1883 to pursue his desire to become a writer and moved to New York City, and later to Cleveland, Ohio. His literary career began in earnest in 1889 when The Conjure Woman, a collection of his stories was published. It was followed by many other novels, short stories and essays. In 1928 he was awarded the coveted Spingarn Medal by the NAACP for distinguished achievements.

Dr. Ezekiel Ezra Smith, a graduate of Shaw Collegiate Institute in Raleigh, became the third Chief Executive Officer when he was appointed Principal in 1883. Smith was one of the first six graduates to earn an A.B. degree from Shaw University and had been the principal of the Graded School in Goldsboro for four years.  

George Williams, an 1879 alumnus of the school who earned an A.B. Degree from St. Augustine's, became the First Assistant Teacher. With the Preparatory Department on the first floor of the building, Smith capitalized on remediation for Normal School applicants, and for practice teaching for advanced students. In 1888 President Grover Cleveland appointed Dr. E.E. Smith as Minister Resident and Consul General of the United States to Liberia.

George H. Williams became the fourth Chief Executive Officer when he was appointed Principal of the State Colored Normal School in 1888.  He maintained the excellence and thoroughness in teaching that had been established. He enhanced the knowledge base of students with experts in the field with a guest lecture series. He resigned in 1895.

Dr. E.E. Smith returned to Fayetteville as Principal of the State Colored Normal School.  Dr. Smith obtained a leave of absence in 1898 to serve as Regimental Adjutant of the Third North Carolina Volunteer Infantry during the Spanish-American War.

The Reverend Leonard E. Fairley served as Interim Principal for one year. When Dr. Smith returned in 1899, Fairley had 12 students ready for graduation.

Dr. Smith returned in 1899 and conducted the First Summer Institute for public school teachers in July of 1899. The new curriculum developed by the state required more classrooms for training than those available in the Howard School building. Dr. Smith moved the State Colored Normal School to a building in Ashley Heights in 1902, and then back to the city in a rented space in 1906.  

Dr. Smith's collaboration with blacks and whites in the community enabled him to purchase a forty-acre site on Murchison Road in 1907, which would become the school's permanent home. The school year for 1908 opened on the new site in Aycock Hall, which was built with state funds. All high school work was discontinued in 1929 and the title of Principal was changed to President. 

During Smith's tenure the name of the school changed several times based on new curriculum requirements by the state: 1916 State Normal and Industrial School; 1921 State Normal School for the Negro Race; and, 1926 State Normal School. He was successful in getting the city to build Newbold Elementary School on the campus in 1930, which distinguished his signature principle of teacher training, which was that practice teaching should be done in a real school setting. The campus grew to eight buildings with several cottages and 92 acres of land by the time Dr. E.E. Smith retired on June 30, 1933 and was elected President Emeritus.

Dr. J. Ward Seabrook, who had served as Smith's Vice Principal and Dean, was the fifth Chief Executive Officer when he was elected President in 1933. He was noted for his scholarship and fatherly concern for students. Under his leadership the institution became a four-year college granting the Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education, was renamed Fayetteville State Teachers College in 1939, and earned both state and regional accreditation. He integrated the members of the Board of Trustees and increased the enrollment of veterans returning after World War II. He added nine new buildings to the campus. Dr. Seabrook retired in 1956 and was elected President Emeritus.

Dr. Rudolph Jones succeeded Dr. Seabrook as President and was the sixth Chief Executive Officer of the School. Advances made during his tenure included the expansion of the curriculum to include programs leading to degrees outside the teaching field in 1959 and the name changed to Fayetteville State College in 1963. Students participated in the Civil Rights Movement and were the catalyst for the desegregation of downtown businesses. Both the faculty and student body were integrated, and Dr. Jones added 60 acres to the campus and eight new buildings with the first major Master Plan. He pushed for University status which became effective July 1, 1969. Dr. Jones retired and was elected President Emeritus in 1969.

Dr. Charles "A" Lyons, Jr. became the seventh Chief Executive Officer, and the College was named Fayetteville State University, and designated as a regional university by an act of the legislature. Fayetteville State University was made a constituent institution of The University of North Carolina by legislative act in 1972. The University became a Comprehensive Level I institution offering a variety of baccalaureate degree programs. The first master's level degree programs were granted. Federal funding increased for research in math and science. The Early Childhood Learning Center was developed, Air Force ROTC was offered on the campus, and the Ft. Bragg - Pope AFB Education Center was established. Eight new buildings were added. Dr. Lyons retired in 1987.

Dr. Lloyd V. Hackley was named the eighth Chief Executive Officer of Fayetteville State University. He greatly increased the diversity of the student population, established the University College to assure success for Freshmen, expanded baccalaureate programs to 36, master's level program to 15, and became the first HBCU to offer the new doctoral program in Educational Leadership. 

Hackley offered a 100% Educational Warranty for the quality of Teacher Education graduates. He strengthened FSU's community outreach to at-risk children in the public schools, and established tutoring/mentoring programs to encourage young people to aspire to academic excellence and a college education. He established the Chancellor's Scholars program and conducted FSU's first major public Capital Campaign. 

The ultra-modern School of Business and Economics Building and the new Health and Physical Education Building were completed. On December 31, 1994, Dr. Hackley left his post at FSU to become President of the North Carolina Department of Community Colleges, the first African-American to lead the state's system of 59 community colleges.

Dr. Donna J. Benson, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs for The University of North Carolina, was appointed by UNC President C. D. Spangler to serve as Interim Chancellor and was the first female to hold that position.  Dr. Benson completed the air-conditioning of all campus buildings and opened the Distance Learning Center.

Dr. Willis B. McLeod, FSU Class of 1964, was appointed as the ninth leader and first alumnus Chancellor of FSU, effective November 15, 1995. Dr. McLeod developed the "Freshman Year Initiative," or "F.Y.I.", a program designed to enhance the skills and attitudes of first year students and to ensure student retention. He formed a regional partnership of public school, community college, and university leaders to focus on enhancing the educational outcomes for all students at every level. Activities included the Lunch Buddies program with local schools and College Day on campus. 

Other outreach efforts included community round table discussions and the development of initiatives funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to revitalize the neighborhoods surrounding the FSU campus, which resulted in Bronco Square and University Apartments. He Inspired Bronco Pride and alumni participation with stadium renovations and 14 CIAA championships. Dr. McLeod retired on June 30, 2003 and was elected President Emeritus.

Dr. T. J. Bryan was named the tenth chief executive officer of Fayetteville State University and was the first female head of FSU and was the first African-American woman appointed as head of a University of North Carolina institution. Bryan introduced 10 new academic programs, Cross Creek Early College High School, and collaborated with the city on the building of Fire Station# 14 to complement the new Fire Science Program at FSU. FSU received accreditation by CCNE, AASCB, and CSWE.  She resigned in 2007.  

Dr. Lloyd V. Hackley came back to FSU as Interim Chancellor in 2007. He improved business practices, returned to the Book Rental system, conducted 64 workshops on ethics for faculty and staff, and FSU participated as a partner in BRAC RTF. The construction of the Lyons Science Annex was completed. 

Dr. James A. Anderson became the 11th Chief Executive Officer of Fayetteville State on June 9, 2008. He instituted global initiatives with 14 countries, successfully completed the 2009-2015 Strategic Plan, "The Future is Calling", and FSU was reaffirmed by SACS, NCATE, DPI, and AACSB. Dr. Anderson broadened community collaborations with the expansion of Bronco Square, the Farmer's Market, and sponsored entrepreneurial activities in schools and with community youth groups. 

FSU established the Center for Defense and Homeland Security, established eight certificate programs, increased online degree programs, and ranked high as a Military Friendly institution. Global initiatives with 14 countries were instituted with Study Abroad, the Fulbright Fellows Program Exchange, and the International Early College High School was established on campus. Nursing, Social Work, the MBA, and Criminal Justice programs have received top national rankings. Three FSU professors have received patents for the products or devices that they developed.  

Three new buildings with LEEDs Certification, highly technical scientific equipment, laboratories, and model classrooms were constructed, and the Student Center was modernized and expanded.

FSU's 2015-2020 Strategic Plan, "Building a World Class University of Choice," is aligned with our UNC system's 2017-2022 Strategic Plan, "Higher Expectations," in improving enrollment and graduation rates.  FSU's Plan is also distinguished by our 150th Anniversary Celebration which includes the largest Capital Campaign ever of $25 million, campus beautification, a new Campus Entrance with a water fountain, and the Sesquicentennial Monument to Leadership.

Dr. Peggy Valentine was appointed Acting Chancellor of Fayetteville State University on July 15, 2019. She assumed her duties on August 7.

Res non Verba.

Darrell T. Allison became the 12th chief executive officer and Chancellor of Fayetteville State University, the 2nd oldest public university in the UNC System, on March 15, 2021. Under his leadership, Chancellor Allison has made it a priority to listen to stakeholders and has invested time and attention to listening to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and supporters of the university, through a series of town halls, one-on-one meetings, and small group engagement sessions. Learn more about Chancellor Allison.