“In 1869 Swayne School was issued a charter as Talladega College by the Judge of Probate of Talladega County.”
The history of Talladega College began on November 20, 1865 when two former slaves, William Savery and Thomas Tarrant, both of Talladega, met in convention with a group of new freedmen in Mobile, Alabama. From this meeting came the commitment: “…We regard the education of our children and youths as vital to the preservation of our liberties, and true religion as the foundation of all real virtue, and shall use our utmost endeavors to promote these blessings in our common country.”
With this as their pledge, Savery and Tarrant, aided by General Wager Swayne of the Freedmen’s Bureau, began in earnest to provide a school for the children of former slaves of the community. Their leadership resulted in the construction of a one-room schoolhouse, using lumber salvaged from an abandoned carpenter’s shop. The school overflowed with pupils from its opening, and soon it was necessary to move into larger quarters.
Meanwhile, the nearby Baptist Academy was about to be sold under mortgage default. This building had been built in 1852-53 with the help of slaves including Savery and Tarrant. A speedy plea for its purchase was sent to General Swayne. General Swayne then persuaded the American Missionary Association to buy the building and 20 acres of land for $23,000. The grateful parents renamed the building Swayne School, and it opened in November of 1867 with about 140 pupils. Thus, a building constructed with slave labor for white students became the home of the state’s first private, liberal arts college dedicated to servicing the educational needs of blacks.
In 1869 Swayne School was issued a charter as Talladega College by the Judge of Probate of Talladega County. Twenty years later, in 1889, the Alabama State Legislature exempted properties of the college from taxation.
Swayne Hall has remained in service as the symbol and spirit of the beginning of the college. Foster Hall, erected for girls and teachers in 1869, was the first building added after the college was chartered. Stone Hall, for boys and teachers, was built the next year. Other buildings were added over the school’s first hundred years.
The training of leaders in education was the first and has been a continuing interest of the institution. The first courses offered above elementary grades were normal courses for teachers. An outline for collegiate level course work first appeared in the catalog for the year 1890. In 1895 the first class graduated with the bachelor’s degree.
Peterson’s Guide “Top Colleges for Science” identified Talladega College as one of 200 colleges and universities in the United States that offers an outstanding undergraduate program in science and mathematics. Peterson’s was a major publisher of college guidebooks. Top Colleges for Science was the first-ever college guide to the nation’s leading undergraduate science programs.
Talladega College was selected as a top institution from nearly 500 four-year colleges and universities initially identified according to the classifications listed in the 1994 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Selection was based on the number and percentage of baccalaureate alumni who earned doctorate degrees in each of the basic sciences and mathematics from 1988 through 1992, the number and percentage of undergraduates who earned baccalaureate degrees in each of the basic sciences and mathematics from 1988 through 1992, and the number and percentage of baccalaureate alumni who were awarded National Science Foundation Fellowships in the sciences and mathematics from 1990 through 1994. Talladega is one of the few institutions in Alabama that has a human cadaver for anatomy instruction.