Talladega College
Savery Library
Latin: Collegium Talladegense
Former names
Swayne School (1867–1869)
MottoAn Education of Distinction
TypePrivate historically black college
Religious affiliation
United Church of Christ
PresidentGregory J. Vincent
Students1,307 (fall 2020)[1]
Location, ,
United States

33°25′56″N 86°6′47″W / 33.43222°N 86.11306°W / 33.43222; -86.11306
CampusRural 50 acres (20.2 ha) main campus
ColorsCrimson & Sky Blue
Sporting affiliations
MascotDear Ole' Dega, Dega, TC

Talladega College is a private, historically black college in Talladega, Alabama. It is Alabama's oldest private historically black college and offers 17 degree programs.[2] It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.[3]


The history of Talladega College began on November 20, 1866, when two formerly enslaved men William Savery and Thomas Tarrant of Talladega, met in a Freedmen's Bureau convention with a group of newly freed men in Mobile, Alabama.[4] From this meeting came the commitment, "We regard the education of our children and youth 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, Tarrant, and a third freed man from the Talladega community, Ambrose Headen began in earnest to provide a school for the children of former enslaved members of the community. Their leadership resulted in the construction of a one-room school house 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 Coosa River Valley Baptist Academy, founded in 1852, was about to be sold under mortgage default. This building had been constructed using slave labor which included carpenter William Savery and laborers Thomas Tarrant, and Ambrose Headen. A speedy plea was sent to General Swayne for its purchase. Maj. Gen. Wager Swayne of the Freedmen's Bureau, was successful in getting the Freedmen's Bureau to commit to purchasing the land provided the American Missionary Association would buy the building and provide an organization structure for the new school. Eventually the building and the land were purchased for $23,000.

The AMA re-christened the college The Swayne School and it opened in November 1867 with about 140 pupils. It is remarkable that a building constructed before the American Civil War, constructed with slave labor, for the benefit of white students became the home of the state's first college dedicated to serving the educational needs of blacks. In 1869, Swayne School was issued a charter by the county and the school's named was changed to Talladega College by the Judge of Probate of Talladega County.

The former Coosa Valley Baptist Academy building, now known as Swayne Hall, has remained in service as the symbol and spirit of the beginning of the college.

Enrollment in 1909 included 21 men in the theology program; 20 men and 20 women in the college; 34 boys and 25 girls in high school college preparation; 2 boys and 55 girls in the high school normal program (for teachers); 63 boys and 86 girls in the grammar department (grades 6-7-8); 9 boys and 60 girls in the conservatory of music; 7 girls in nurse training; 20 men and 15 women in night school; and 142 boys and 228 girls in the Cassedy School (grades K to 5). The total enrollment was 797. Tuition ranged from 50 cents a month to $2.00 a month; room and board was $10.00 a month plus one hour a day of work. [5] By 1937, total enrollment was 567, including 281 in the college and 120 in the high school.[6]


Built in 1857, Swayne Hall is the oldest building on campus. It was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 2, 1974.

Talladega College is located in the city of Talladega. The campus consists of 50 acres (200,000 m2) with 17 primary buildings. 32 campus buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Talladega College Historic District.[7] The Savery Library, completed in 1939, was built to replace a 1907 structure built with a donation from Andrew Carnegie. The library houses hundreds of thousands of serials, a Record Room, a fully equipped computer laboratory, a unique Archives Room, and the historic Amistad murals painted by Hale Woodruff. Embedded in the floor of the library is a mural of La Amistad - which school tradition says must never be stepped upon - referring to the mutiny by slaves, who took control of that ship and later won their freedom in a United States court, is depicted upon the surrounding walls. The mezzanine floor of the library houses the Galangue Room. This room contains an extensive collection of Angolan and Nigerian artifacts.

Andrews Hall, built in 1910, houses the Music Department and the Education Department. It is named for George Whitfield Andrews, D.D., Dean of the Theological Department from 1875 to 1908.

Arthur D. Shores Hall, constructed in 1974, is named for the late attorney Arthur D. Shores, Class of 1927, who served for many years as a member and chairman of the College Board of Trustees.

De Forest Chapel was built in 1903 in commemoration of the life and service of the Rev. Henry Swift De Forest, D.D., President of the college from 1879 to 1896. DeForest Chapel was renovated in 1996 and rededicated November 1996. De Forest was the father of inventor Lee De Forest.

Dr. William R. Harvey Museum of Art was founded in 2014 and opened in 2020. The showcase piece of the collection is the Amistad Mutiny murals by Hale Woodruff

Fanning Refectory was built in 1928 from a legacy of David H. Fanning of Worcester, Massachusetts. The building contains the student and faculty dining rooms.

Juliette Derricotte House, built in 1940–41, was the gift of the Harkness Foundation and named for Juliette Derricotte, Class of 1918, who at the time of her death in 1932 was a member of the Board of Trustees. Formerly a staff residence and guest house, it was converted into a women's honors dormitory in 1988.

Silsby Science Hall, constructed in 1926, was named for E. C. Silsby, who was a member of the college faculty for 37 years. The building was a gift of the General Education Board and friends and alumni of the college. It contains the laboratories and classrooms for the Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

The Dr. Billy C. Hawkins Student Activity Center completed in 2020, was named after the 20th president of Talladega College.[8] The 47,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility includes a 2,000-seat gymnasium, dining hall, full kitchen, concession stand, coffee lounge, convenience store, fitness area, and multipurpose rooms.[9][10]


The Talladega athletic teams are called the Tornadoes. The college is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the Continental Athletic Conference since the 2023–24 academic year, and previously from 2008–09 to 2010–11. The Tornadoes previously competed in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) from 1999–2000 to 2001–02, and from 2011–12 to 2020–21, and the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC; formerly known as Georgia–Alabama–Carolina Conference [GACC] until after the 2003–04 school year) from 2021–22 to 2022–23.

Talladega competes in 15 intercollegiate varsity sports: Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, soccer and track & field (indoor and outdoor); while women's sports include basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, track & field (indoor and outdoor) and volleyball; and co-ed sports include competitive cheer and competitive dance. Former sports included men's & women's golf.

Marching band

The Talladega College Tornado Marching Band (The Great Tornado) was established in 2012. The marching band is the largest organization on campus, with over 200 members. The band is led by five drum majors and is accompanied by a danceline named "Dega Diamonds". The marching band made their debut appearance at the annual Honda Battle of the Bands in 2015 and performed at the 2017 U.S. presidential inauguration parade in Washington, D.C.[11][12] The band has also performed halftime for the New Orleans Saints in 2016, 2017, & 2021. They are also expected to perform at the London New Years Parade on January 1, 2024.

Notable alumni

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
George Ruffin Bridgeforth 1894 agriculturist, faculty at Tuskegee Institute, first Black alumnus of UMass Amherst
Celestine Smith 1925 first African American psychoanalyst trained in Jungian psychology [13]
Jewel Plummer Cobb 1947 biologist, cancer researcher, college dean, California State University, Fullerton president
Eunice Johnson 1938 Founder and director of the Ebony Fashion Fair
William R. Harvey 1961 12th president of Hampton University
Deion Sanders 2020 NFL Hall of Famer, TV personality, and collegiate football coach [14]
George Williamson Crawford lawyer, city official, and judge in New Haven, Connecticut [15]
Nikky Finney author who won the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry, Head Off & Split
Sherman A. James 1964 Epidemiologist and Susan King Professor Emeritus of Public Policy at Duke University. elected to National Academy of Medicine in 2000. Washington University PhD in Psychology 1973
Karla F.C. Holloway 1971 Cultural studies, law and literature scholar and author. Duke University Dean Emerita and Hastings Foundation Fellow. Michigan State University PhD 1978 in English and linguistics
Theodore K. Lawless dermatologist, medical researcher, and philanthropist
Wynona Lipman ~1944 first African American woman elected to the New Jersey Senate
Herman H. Long 1935 educator who served as president of Talladega College and president of the United Negro College Fund
Gladys McCoy ~1958 first African American elected to public office in Oregon
Vonnie McLoyd 1971 developmental psychologist University of Michigan PhD 1975. faculty and named McArthur Foundation Fellow 1996.
William Pickens 1902 orator, educator, journalist, and essayist; wrote two autobiographies, The Heir of Slaves in 1911 and Bursting Bonds in 1923
Cornelius Golightly 1938 philosopher, educator, activist
Willard Ransom 1936 Lawyer, businessman, community civic leader, and a civil rights activist in Indianapolis, Indiana [16][17]
Hank Sanders 1967 civil rights attorney and current Alabama State Senator
Arthur Shores ~1934 civil rights attorney who was considered Alabama's drum major for justice
Rev. Paul Smith 1957 first African American minister at the historic First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, New York; multicultural consultant, civil rights activist, educator, author
Barbara Gardner Proctor 1954 American advertising executive. In 1970 she founded Proctor and Gardner Advertising, Inc.
Nikema Williams 2000 US congresswoman for Georgia District 5, Chair of the Georgia Democratic Party
Margaret Bush Wilson 1939 attorney, civil rights advocate, first African American woman to Chair National NAACP Board of Directors (1975–1983)
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers poet and writer [18]


  1. ^ "Talladega College Announces 3rd Consecutive Record-Setting Enrollment Increase, HBCU Campaign Fund | Celebrating HBCUs Around the United States". 5 October 2020.
  2. ^ "Home | Talladega College". www.talladega.edu. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  3. ^ "TC gets full SACS accreditation". The Daily Home. Retrieved 2009-06-30.
  4. ^ "Talladega College | Founded in 1867". www.talladega.edu. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  5. ^ Catalog of the officers and students of Talladega College: 1909-1910 (1909) pp. 13, 60-61. online
  6. ^ Negro Year Book 1937-1938 (1937) p. 204.
  7. ^ Bowman, Camille; Melanie A. Betz (March 1, 1990). "Talladega College Historic District". National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. National Park Service. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 4, 2014. Retrieved May 4, 2014. See also: "Accompanying photos". Archived (PDF) from the original on May 4, 2014. Retrieved May 4, 2014.
  8. ^ "Talladega College New Student Center Named After College President". weactv24. Mar 27, 2020. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  9. ^ "Hawkins to be first Black president of Talladega College with building named in his honor". Aug 2, 2020. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  10. ^ "State-of-the-Art Residence Hall Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony at Talladega College, First of three major campus facilities to open in 2019, HBCU Campaign Fund | Celebrating HBCUs Around the United States". 16 January 2019.
  11. ^ Lawler, Nicola (April 26, 2012). "The New Talladega College Marching Band". Talladega College (Press release). Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  12. ^ "The Talladega College Band Will Play in the Inaugural Parade". Time. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  13. ^ "Dr. Celestine L. Smith (Published 1975)". The New York Times. 1975-12-19. Retrieved 2023-08-08.
  14. ^ Harrell, Sumner (Aug 16, 2020). "Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders graduates from Talladega College". WBMA. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  15. ^ "George Crawford Black Bar Association". Archived from the original on 4 December 2010. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  16. ^ Schwier, Ryan; Smith, Ravay (February 23, 2015). ""Thirst for Justice": Indiana's Pioneering Black Lawyers". Indiana Legal Archive. Retrieved 2023-04-11. a pioneer in the civil rights movement in Indianapolis
  17. ^ Bodnar, John E. (2001). Our Towns: Remembering Community in Indiana. Indiana Historical Society. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-87195-149-6.
  18. ^ Haskins, Shelly (March 11, 2018). "Talladega College grad wins 2018 Harper Lee award". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved February 11, 2021.

Further reading