FAQ

When was Cheyney University established?

Cheyney University was established on February 25, 1837, through the bequest of Richard Humphreys, making it the oldest institution of higher learning for African Americans.

Who was Richard Humphreys?

Richard Humphreys, a Quaker, was born on February 13, 1750 on the British Virgin Island of Tortola.He would eventually come to America, and become a silversmith.In 1829, Humphreys left in his will $10,000 dollars for the establishment of a teacher’s school for African Americans. He entrusted these funds to thirteen fellow Quakers. He died in 1832.

Why did he do it?

Richard Humphreys observed the mistreatment and discrimination that African Americans were facing in Philadelphia, and was convinced that educational opportunities were vital.

Is the university considered a Quaker institution? Is it private or public?

From 1837 to 1921, the university was under the auspices of Quakers. By January 1, 1922, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had purchased the university. Although Quakers no longer manage the university, they are still involved in fund raising activities.

Was the university always known as Cheyney University? What is the university’s connection with the Philadelphia based Institute for Colored Youth?

At its founding in 1837, the university was named the African Institute. However, the name was changed several weeks later to the Institute for Colored Youth (ICY). In subsequent years, the university was renamed Cheyney Training School for Teachers (July 1914), Cheyney State Teacher’s College (1951), Cheyney State College (1959), and eventually Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (1983).

Who were the Cheyney's? Was the university named after them?

The Cheyneys (aka Cheyne, Choney, Cheney, Chainy, and Chonnoy) have their origins in Berkshire, England. An early family member, Sir Thomas Cheyne, was shield bearer to King Edward III, the “Black Prince.” During the 1700’s, it was the grandfather (or great-grandfather) of Squire Thomas Cheyney who purchased the plot of land in Thornbury County, PA that bears the family name. In 1902, George Cheyney sold the family farm to officials of the Institute for Colored Youth. In 1914, in order to better reflect the school’s mission, ICY became the Cheyney Training School for Teachers.

Who is buried in the Cheyney Graveyard?

Cheyney family members and others.  As far as we know, there are no school personnel or students buried there.

Where can I acquire additional information on Cheyney University of PA?

There is a historical timeline of the university on the University Archives official website. In addition to the primary resources that the University Archives maintains, there are a few publications that deal with Cheyney University’s history at length; A Living Legend: The History of Cheyney University, 1837-1951 by Charline Howard Conyers, Reminiscences of School Life, and Hints on Teaching by Fanny Jackson-Coppin, Cheyney: Mother of Higher Education of African-Americans, 1837-1981 by Arthur Clifton Willis, and Fanny Jackson Coppin and the Institute for Colored Youth: A Model of Nineteenth Century Black Female Educational and Community Leadership, 1837-1902 by Linda Marie Perkins.