ABOUT SELMA UNIVERSITY
A Place Called Selma
A few years following legalized slavery in America, a large group of likeminded Alabama
African American pastors and their local congregations united in 1868 to form the
Alabama State Colored Baptist Convention, later named the Alabama State Missionary
Baptist Convention. The Convention’s primary purpose was to band together to
strengthen their local churches and better carryout their organizational purpose of
promoting Christian mission, evangelism, and education.
Local Black churches in African American communities were institutions that served to
meet the spiritual, social, and educational needs of impoverished newly emancipated
slaves. Also, the Black Church was the primary institution for building family and
community culture and for dealing with many other societal ills.
Leaders of the Alabama State Missionary Baptist Convention felt that the best way to
advance their mission and to help congregants in their local churches was to provide
them with a good Christian and liberal arts education. The strategy was to build a school
to train preachers and teachers from across the State, who in turn would be able to
teach members of their congregations and communities; thereby, ensuring that every
member of the race was provided an opportunity to gain a good Christian education
from pulpits, and gain a good liberal arts education from church-community classrooms.
The Convention agreed to move forward with the idea of establishing a school and
elected the first trustees at a meeting in Mobile, Alabama in 1874. The meeting was led
by such noted men as the Reverends W. H. McAlphine, James A. Foster and R. Murrel.
The first trustees were C. O. Booth, Alexander Butler, W. H. McAlphine, Holland
Thompson and H. J. Europe. In 1877, the Convention voted to locate the school in
Selma, Alabama, and the first classes were conducted at Saint Phillips Street Baptist
Church of Selma in 1878.
In 1881, the school was incorporated by an act of the legislature under the name of
Alabama Baptist Normal and Theological School of Selma. On May 14, 1908, the name
was officially changed to Selma University.
The Women’s Baptist Convention was organized in 1886 and built a girls’ dormitory in
1889. This dormitory was named Stone Hall in honor of Miss Susie Stone.
The Dinkins Memorial Chapel was completed in 1904. It was named in honor of
Reverend C. S. Dinkins, one of the presidents of the school. This building was rebuilt in
1921, after having been destroyed by fire. It was renovated in 1980.
Foster Hall was built in 1910 and named for Miss Susie C. Foster, who was president of
the Women’s Convention at the time of its construction.
Cleveland Hall was built in 1948 and was named in honor of M. C. Cleveland, Sr. The
building contained materials that were taken from the Vickers Home and the Old Arcade
Hotel in Selma.
Gibbs Dining Hall was constructed in 1953 and named after Mrs. Henrietta M. Gibbs.
The Stone-Robinson Library was erected in 1960 and named for Miss Susie Stone,
Secretary of the Women’s Convention, and Reverend U. J. Robinson, President of the
Alabama State Missionary Baptist Convention.
The Jemison-Owens Auditorium/Gymnasium was completed in 1966. This building was
named in honor of Reverend D. V. Jemison, who was President of the Convention, and
Dr. James H. Owens, President of the school at the time of its construction.
The Hood-Ware dormitory for men and the Jackson-Wilson dormitory for women were
completed in 1970. The A. W. Wilson Science and Computer Hall was completed in
In 1988, the science complex was expanded with the addition of an annex that houses
an auditorium, several instructional laboratories, and two computer facilities, with offices
for faculty. The computer-equipped writing laboratory in Dinkins Hall, the mathematics
laboratory in the science addition (completed in 1989), and the expanded library facility
which houses a center for audiovisual instruction and computer-aided self-study
(completed in 1990) are the most recent improvements on campus.
Selma University became a four-year institution in the late 1980s. In the fall of 2000, the
University sought accreditation with the Association for Biblical Higher Education and
received applicant status in February 2001. The University received candidate status in
February 2005, and was initially accredited in February 2009 with the Commission on
Accreditation of the Association for Biblical Higher Education in the United States and
Canada. In October 2013, the school successfully completed an evaluation for a ten
year reaffirmation of accreditation with ABHE and was accredited through February
Over the years Selma University has made a tremendously positive impacted in society
by helping to create servant leaders who have helped to shape the world through their
leadership in a variety of career fields. Such notable alumni include Dr. Mattie Moss
Clark, Mrs. Autherine Lucy, and Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth.
Such notable alumni include Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, who studied classical music and
choral singing at Selma University. She became a nationally known gospel choir
director and the mother of the world-renowned, Grammy award winning gospel group,
The Clark Sisters. She is also the aunt of renowned Grammy nominated contemporary
Christian recording artist J. Moss.
Autherine Lucy left her community in nearby Shiloh, Alabama, in 1947, to attend Selma
University in Selma, Alabama, where she earned a teaching certificate. Lucy went on to
graduate from Miles College, and to become the first African American to attend the
University of Alabama. Although she was wrongly expelled from the University of
Alabama in an effort to prevent racial integration, in 1989 she was readmitted to the
University of Alabama and graduated with her daughter.
Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth graduated from Selma University in 1951. Reverend
Shuttlesworth was a major leader in the civil rights movement and was called "the most courageous civil rights fighter in the South" by Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2001, Reverend Shuttlesworth was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton.
In 1865, Selma was a Confederate arsenal and was the site of a major battle during the
Civil War. Ironically, one hundred years later, it became the battleground for voting
rights, which revolutionized the lives of African Americans and changed the Nation for
the better. However, as quietly as it may be kept, a place called Selma was also the
birth place of the largest producer of University trained African American preachers in
the State of Alabama.
Today, Selma University continues to change lives and is striving to be the school of
choice for producing graduates who demonstrate the reciprocal tenets of Christian
servant leadership, which includes helping oneself, while helping others, who in turn
helps themselves, their families, and their communities.
Unite with Selma University!
SELMA UNIVERSITY MISSION STATEMENT
Selma University’s mission is to prepare men and women to be servant leaders throughout the world. The school offers a quality educational program with liberal arts emphasis, equipping diverse students spiritually, intellectually and socially; thereby, producing graduates who lead in the profession for which they were trained.
In an effort to fulfill its mission, Selma University is committed to achieving the following goals:
1. Preparing scholarly and faithful leaders in all the areas they choose to serve.
2. Creating communities of academic inquiry by providing the necessary resources within
the school and beyond.
3. Creating an environment that is both spiritual and academic, which enables students to
develop ethical character during their academic endeavor and in the future.
4. Reaching disadvantaged students whose circumstances have thwarted their efforts for
normal educational opportunities.]