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John Hope Franklin, Historian, on
Establishing Fisk University

John Hope Franklin In Nashville, the American Missionary Association was also one of the chief organizations for the founding of Fisk. Can you talk about what they do in terms of the organization of Fisk Free School

Franklin : Well, in 1865, the American Missionary Association, in collaboration with various other Christian groups, began to focus its attention on the establishment of schools for freedmen in Nashville. And by 1866, not only had they established schools, but they then began to focus on the establishment of a school of a little higher level, for the training of freedmen. And General Fisk, who had been active in the Freedmen’s Bureau, was active in the establishment of this school, and it was named finally for Clinton B. Fisk. And that was on the ground that later became Fisk University.

And the attraction to it was very considerable in the first years. Students came not only from Nashville but from areas around Tennessee, and then they began to come in larger numbers from other places. So that the Fisk School (as it was first called) attracted freedmen in considerable numbers. And as it began to grow, it began to think in terms of higher education. And that was provided as the American Missionary Association and its colleagues brought in teachers who could provide education at a higher level, and who could provide special kinds of training, not only in terms of vocational opportunities and activities, but opportunities to train teachers to teach. And these opportunities involved not only vocational activities, but what we now call classical education, which became a part of the tradition at Fisk almost from the beginning.

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