Our History

Celebrating our Sesquicentennial will be a testament to the tenacity of the spirit of seven black citizens who established the Howard School on November 29, 1867 for the purpose of educating black children.

They would indeed be proud today of the diverse student body and world class accomplishments made by FSU in various fields from teacher education to cyber-security. We will commemorate this transformative experience by proudly “Celebrating 150 Years of Excellence in Preparing Educators, Leaders, and Engaged Citizens " during the 2017-2018 academic year.


In 1865, a "sophisticated" education agenda was already underway in Fayetteville’s black community. A year after the Civil War ended, the Phillips School provided primary education to Fayetteville’s black citizens, and the Sumner School provided intermediate education for this population. The two schools were consolidated in 1869 and dedicated in April of that year as the Howard School, in honor of the Freedman’s Bureau chief General O. O. Howard. Seven prominent African-American men pooled $136 to purchase two lots for the first building that housed the Howard School.

African-American students at the Phillips and Sumner schools were already being taught fundamentals - reading, writing, arithmetic, and practical skills. Building on the curriculum, the leadership of the Howard School added geography and science classes, the latter after its first telescope was acquired. Even then, the community understood the opportunity and the obligation to “build on strengths.” All of this progress occurred in the midst of an economic depression that threatened the entire town. Remarkably, African Americans in Fayetteville continued to donate funds to support the school, demonstrating the high value the black community placed on education. The first leader of the Howard School was Robert Harris; his enduring legacy was in the training of teachers. Not only were students trained to become teachers at the Howard School, but also they were trained to serve as teachers in small rural schools in Cumberland and surrounding counties.


Seven visionary Black citizens of Fayetteville, North Carolina pay $136.00 for two lots on Gillespie Street and form among themselves a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees to maintain the property for the education of Black youth. The seven Founders are David A. Bryant, Nelson Carter, Andrew J. Chesnutt, George Grainger, Matthew Leary. Thomas Lomax, and Robert Simmons. Robert Harris is named the first principal of the Howard School.

View a visual timeline of our history.

I'm proud to be a bronco because my family graduated from here. My grandma graduated from here. My mom. So at Homecoming it was all of my family tailgating. That's the family atmosphere that Fayetteville State gives students.
Ivey Williams
Major- Sports Management


An act of the legislature provides for the establishment of a teacher training institution for Black North Carolinians. The A Howard School in Fayetteville is selected to become the State Colored Normal School, and thus becomes the first and oldest state-supported institution of its kind in North Carolina. In 1877, the Howard School became not just the first public normal school for African Americans in North Carolina but also the first state-sponsored institution for the education of African-American teachers in the South. It was renamed the State Colored Normal School in Fayetteville that year, Fayetteville State Teachers College in 1939, Fayetteville State College in 1963, and Fayetteville State University in 1969.


Charles W. Chesnutt is appointed Principal of the State Colored Normal School upon the death of Robert Harris. After three years in office, Chesnutt resigns to move to Cleveland, Ohio, where he passes the Ohio Bar and begins a law practice. His literary career begins in earnest in 1889 when The Conjure Woman, a collection of his stories is published. It is followed by The Life of Frederick Douglass, and many other novels and short stories. In 1928 he is awarded the coveted Springarn Medal, at that time given annually by the NAACP for distinguished achievement.


Dr. Ezekiel Ezra Smith, 31 years of age and a graduate of Shaw Collegiate Institute in Raleigh, is appointed Principal upon the resignation of Charles W. Chesnutt.


President Grover Cleveland appoints Dr. E.E. Smith as Minister Resident and Consul General of the United States to Liberia, in which capacity he serves for two years. George H. Williams assumes the duties of Principal of the State Colored Normal School.


Dr. E.E. Smith returns to Fayetteville as Principal of the State Colored Normal School. Prior to this he had organized the first newspaper for Black North Carolinians, the Carolina Enterprise, in Goldsboro.


Dr. Smith obtains a leave of absence for the purpose of serving as Regimental Adjutant of the Third North Carolina Volunteer Infantry during the Spanish-American War. During his absence his work is carried on by the Reverend L. E. Fairly. Dr. Smith returns to his duties in 1899. During Dr. Smith's long and distinguished tenure, the institution moves to its permanent site on Murchison Road in 1907. Later, Dr. Smith and his wife deed additional land to the state to bring the institution's holding to 92 acres. the campus grows to eight buildings and several cottages. All high school work is discontinued in 1929 and the title of Principal is changed to President. Dr. E.E. Smith retires on June 30, 1933 and is elected President Emeritus.


Dr. J. Ward Seabrook is elected President. Under his leadership the institution becomes a four-year college, is renamed Fayetteville State Teachers College in 1939, and earns both state and regional accreditation. Dr. Seabrook retires in 1956 and is elected President Emeritus.


Dr. Rudolph Jones succeeds Dr. Seabrook as President. Advances made during his tenure include the revision of the charter in 1959 authorizing the expansion of the curriculum to include programs leading to degrees outside the teaching field; adoption of the name Fayetteville State college in 1963; and significant additions to the physical plant to accommodate growing enrollment. Dr. Jones retires and is elected President Emeritus in 1969


Dr. Charles "A" Lyons, Jr. becomes President, the college is named Fayetteville State University, and it is designated a regional university by an act of the legislature. Dr. Lyons becomes the first Chancellor when Fayetteville State University is made a constituent institution of The University of North Carolina by legislative act in 1972. The University becomes a Comprehensive Level I institution offering a variety of baccalaureate and master's degree programs, and the Continuing Education program and the Ft. Bragg - Pope AFB Education Center are established. Dr. Lyons retires in 1987.


Dr. Lloyd V. Hackley is named the seventh Chief Executive Officer of Fayetteville State University. He actively pursued initiatives to further expand program offerings and improve the campus environment in response to the needs and interests of students and the community. FSU master's level program offerings expanded to 15; FSU's first doctoral program in Educational Leadership was established; and baccalaureate program offerings were increased to 36 disciplines in the arts and sciences, business and economics, and education. The addition of the $6.3 million ultra-modern School of Business and Economics Building and the new $10.9 million Health and Physical Education Building underscored Dr. Hackley's commitment to FSU's continued expansion and growth. He also strengthened FSU's community outreach to at-risk children in the public schools, establishing numerous scholarship and tutoring/mentoring programs to encourage more young people to aspire to academic excellence and a college education. FSU's first major public capital campaign was completed during Dr. Hackley's tenure, and enabled FSU to increase the number of privately funded scholarships available to students. 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, is appointed by UNC President C. D. Spangler to serve as Interim Chancellor.


The University of North Carolina Board of Governors elects Dr. Willis B. McLeod, FSU Class of 1964, as the ninth leader and first alumnus Chancellor of FSU, effective November 15, 1995. Dr. McLeod's major initiatives include a new "Freshman Year Initiative," or "F.Y.I." program designed to enhance students' educational outcomes; new outreach efforts aimed at strengthening community ties and involving the community in university life; campus improvements including $46 million in Higher Education Improvement Bond Projects underway; forming a regional partnership of public school, community college, and university leaders to focus on enhancing the educational outcomes for pre-K through 16 students; and initiatives funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to revitalize the neighborhoods surrounding the FSU campus. After serving his alma mater for eight years, Dr. McLeod steps down from the position of Chancellor on June 30, 2003.


Dr. T. J. Bryan is named the tenth chief executive officer of Fayetteville State University and the first woman elected by The University of North Carolina Board of Governors to lead the 136-year-old institution as Chancellor. She is also the first African-American woman appointed as head of a University of North Carolina institution.


Dr. James A. Anderson is named the 11th Chief Executive Officer of Fayetteville State University on March 7, 2008. Dr. Anderson, who comes to FSU from the University of Albany in New York, began his duties as Chancellor of the state’s second-oldest public institution on June 9, 2008. The appointment was made by Erskine Bowles, President of the 17-campus University of North Carolina System.