Transforming an Institution
The Lincoln Years
Lincoln University, the school that Nathan B. Young came to head in 1923, was the first of many black educational institutions founded during the first decade after the Civil War. The history of Lincoln down to 1923 had been both inspiring and troubled. It was the only such institution established through the efforts and sacrifices of black soldiers. By 1923, Lincoln had been developed to about the level of a secondary industrial and normal school, and it was troubled by internal strife. Young came with the dream of building the school into a standard four-year college, and he set about to bring this dream into reality.1
During the Civil War, the Western Sanitary Commission, a benevolent association, began organizing classes for black soldiers at Benton Barracks in St. Louis. The classes, mostly in reading and writing, continued in the black regiments, as the former slaves were taught
1. Curtis, “Nathan B. Young, A Sketch,” 107–10; Young, “The Quest,”
68. It was nationally known that Lincoln was so involved in state politics
that every time the governor changed so would the president of Lincoln.
In fact, Lincoln's presidents changed even more frequently, some lasting
less than twenty-four hours. In 1894, W. E. B. Du Bois refused to accept a
higher-paying position at Lincoln because he feared that state politicians
would prevent him from doing honest research and telling the truth. St.
Louis American, April 7, 1938; W. E. B. Du Bois, Dusk to Dawn, 49, and W. Ε. Β.
Du Bois, “Future of the Negro State University,” address delivered at Lin-
coln University, January 12, 1941, Lincoln University Archives.