Allen University
Historic Coppin Hall
Former names
Payne Institute
MottoWe Teach The Mind To Think, The Hands To Work, The Heart To Love
TypePrivate historically black university
Religious affiliation
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Endowment$312,884 (as of 2014)[1]
PresidentErnest McNealey
Administrative staff
Students657 (Fall, 2022)
Location, ,
United States
Royal Blue & Gold
NicknameYellow Jackets
Sporting affiliations
MascotYellow Jacket

Allen University is a private historically black university in Columbia, South Carolina. It has more than 600 students and still serves a predominantly Black constituency.[2] The campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Allen University Historic District.


Allen University was founded in Cokesbury in 1870 as Payne Institute by ministers of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, including John M. Brown.[3] Its initial mission was to provide education to freedmen, former African American slaves and their children.

In 1880, it was moved to Columbia and renamed Allen University in honor of Bishop Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The university remains connected to the denomination, which is related to other Methodist churches. As one of two black colleges located in Columbia, Allen has a very strong presence in the African-American community. Allen University initially focused on training ministers and teachers, who were considered critical to the progress of African Americans. Over the years, it has enlarged its scope to produce graduates in other academic areas.

In 1885, Joseph W. Morris became president of the university.[4] By 1898, the university reported having a total of 9 faculty, 304 students, and 208 graduates.[5]


The university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to offer Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. These degrees are awarded in the following divisions and departments:

In 2010, Washington Monthly reported in its annual College Guide edition that the school had a six percent graduation rate.[6] In 2018, Allen University launched its first graduate program, the Dickerson-Green Theological Seminary.[7] Under the seminary's founding dean, Jamal-Dominique Hopkins, Dickerson-Green Theological Seminary gained member status with the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada to offer the Master of Arts in Religion and Master of Divinity degrees.[8]


Allen University
Chappelle Administration Building
Location1530 Harden St., Columbia, South Carolina
Coordinates34°0′38″N 81°1′14″W / 34.01056°N 81.02056°W / 34.01056; -81.02056
NRHP reference No.75001705[9]
Added to NRHPApril 14, 1975

Buildings such as Arnett Hall, the Chappelle Administration Building, Coppin Hall, the Joseph Simon Flippen Library, and the Canteen Building are included in what is designated as the Allen University Historic District, listed in 1975 on the National Register of Historic Places.[9][10][11]

In addition to its National Register of Historic Places status, Allen University Historic District falls within the boundaries of Waverly Protection Area, a Preservation District within the City of Columbia Urban Design and Historic Preservation District system.[12] This Preservation District is an expansion of Waverly Historic District.

Several of the district's buildings were restored, using $2.9 million in funds obtained through the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Historic Building Restoration and Preservation Act. Chappelle Auditorium's seating capacity of 700 has made it the site of countless organizations' and community events.

The auditorium was the site of the meeting of educators and lawyers to initiate efforts that led to the landmark US Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education (1954) on school integration. Nationally known musicians and artists, including Leontyne Price, Brook Benton and Langston Hughes, have performed in the auditorium. Notable speakers include: Mary McCleod Bethune, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.,[13] Muhammad Ali, Reverend Jesse Jackson, George Elmore, John H. McCray, and Senator Strom Thurmond. The auditorium was named in honor of Bishop William D. Chappelle, an Allen University President. On April 14, 1975, Chappelle Administration Building was recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.[citation needed]

Chappelle Administration Building was designed by John Anderson Lankford (1874-1946), who is known as the "Dean of Black Architects". It is a National Historic Landmark. Lankford also served as the official architect of the AME Church.[citation needed]

Student life

Allen University is the home of more than 15 on-campus student organizations.

National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations

Allen University has eight of the nine national black fraternities and sororities of the National Pan-Hellenic Council present on campus.


The Allen athletic teams are called the Yellow Jackets. The university is a member of the NCAA Division II ranks, primarily competing in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) as a provisional member since the 2020–21 academic year (achieving D-II full member status in 2022–23); which they were a member on a previous stint from 1947–48 to 1968–69. The Yellow Jackets previously competed in the Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) from 2016–17 to 2019–20; as an NAIA Independent within the Association of Independent Institutions (AII) from 2005–06 to 2015–16; and in the defunct Eastern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (EIAC) from 1983–84 to 2004–05.

Allen competes in 11 intercollegiate varsity sports. Men's sports include basketball, cross country, football, track & field and wrestling; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, track & field, volleyball, and wrestling. The university also fields a co-ed competitive cheerleading team.

Move to NCAA Division II

Beginning in the 2020–21 academic year, the Yellow Jackets will compete as a provisional member of Division II of the NCAA. They will compete alongside their next-door rival, the Benedict Tigers, in the SIAC. The Yellow Jackets will complete the reclassification process and be considered full members of Division II in 2023.[14]

Marching band

Following the reinstatement of the football program in 2018, the marching band, known as the Band of Gold, was reinstated under the direction of former Marching 101 director Eddie Ellis.[15]

Notable alumni

Name Class year Notability References
Sam Davis 1967 A retired American football player, who played for the National Football League's Pittsburgh Steelers from 1967 to 1979.
Hall Johnson 1908 American composer and arranger
George Harold former professional American football player
Joseph DeLaine 1931 minister and civil rights leader who worked with South Carolina NAACP on the legal case Briggs vs Elliot in 1952. It was one of the four cases argued under Brown vs. Board of Education
Dock J. Jordan 1892 American lawyer, author, educator, civil rights activist; President of Edward Waters University and Kittrell College.
Lewis C. Dowdy 1939 American educator; Sixth president and first chancellor of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University [16]
Ralph Anderson 1949 member of the South Carolina House of Representatives (1991- 1996) South Carolina Senate, 19th District (1997)
DeWitt Williams 1950 member of the South Carolina Senate, 102nd District (1983-1996-present) SC Senate (1996-1997) District 102nd
Kay Patterson 1956 member of the South Carolina Senate, 7th District (1985-2008)
William Clyburn 1964 member of Aiken City Council (1973-1980) (1983-1983) the South Carolina House of Representatives, 82nd District (1995-Present)
Clementa Carlos Pinckney 1995 member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, 73rd District (1997- 2000) SC Senate District 45 (2000-2015)
Tywanza Sanders 2014 victim of the Charleston church shooting
Hall Johnson


  1. ^ "Allen University". Best Colleges 2010. U.S. News & World Report, L.P. Archived from the original on April 20, 2016. Retrieved November 18, 2009.
  2. ^ "Southern Accreditor Clears Virginia, Fisk, Florida A&M". Inside Higher Ed. December 11, 2013. Retrieved December 24, 2013.
  3. ^ Simmons, William J., and Henry McNeal Turner. Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising. GM Rewell & Company, 1887. p1113-1118
  4. ^ [No Headline], Washington Bee (Washington, DC), 20 June 1885, p. 3
  5. ^ Hawkins, John R., ed. (1898). "Our Schools from Latest Reports". The Educator. Educational Department of the A.M.E. Church. 1 (no. 1): 47.
  6. ^ "Dropout Factories". College Guide 2010. Washington Monthly. Archived from the original on August 25, 2010. Retrieved August 30, 2009.
  7. ^ "Allen University launches Dickerson-Green Theological Seminary". Carolina Panorama Newspaper. August 2, 2018. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  8. ^ "ATS members gather in Pittsburgh for 2022 ATS/COA Biennial Meeting" (PDF). Association of Theological Schools Commission on Accrediting. June 22, 2022. Retrieved July 2, 2022.
  9. ^ a b "National Register Information System – (#75001705)". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  10. ^ Dixon, Nenie; Pat Landholt (January 26, 1975). "Octagon House" (PDF). Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  11. ^ "Allen University Historic District, Richland County (1530 Harden St., Columbia)". National Register Properties in South Carolina. South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  12. ^ City of Columbia Preservation Districts". City of Columbia Planning and Preservation. Archived from the original on 2021-07-09. Retrieved January 2, 2023.
  13. ^ "The past restored: Allen University opens renovated auditorium". June 24, 2016. Archived from the original on June 25, 2016. Artists including Leontyne Price, Brook Benton and Langston Hughes performed there. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali are among the other celebrities who appeared at Chappelle Auditorium over the years.
  14. ^ "Allen University to move from NAIA to NCAA Division II effective 2020-21 academic year". HBCU Sports. July 15, 2020. Archived from the original on July 16, 2020. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  15. ^ "A Marching Band at Allen University". Black PRWire. Archived from the original on April 8, 2022. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  16. ^ "Dr. Lewis Carnegie Dowdy Chancellor of North Carolina A&T University". Retrieved May 20, 2014.