Reverend Thomas Craven strongly opposed slavery and also believed that all people, regardless of their gender or ethnicity, deserved an education. His vision was behind Eleutherian College.
- Reverend Craven was a traveling minister working in Lancaster, Illinois. Many anti-slavery Baptists lived in the area and shared his belief that slavery was wrong.
- He introduced the idea of building a school that anyone could attend, including women and freed or fugitive slaves.
- The Hoyt-Whipple family, along with other members of the community, supported the idea and organized a school, which opened in 1848. In the 1850s, the school was expanded to include a dormitory, a stone chapel, and a classroom. It also began offering college level classes.
- The school was never very successful, despite the strong vision of its founders. Between 25 and 30 percent of its students were black in the school’s early days.
- During the Civil War, the school was closed and the buildings were used for meetings and concerts.
- After the war the college became a private high school. From 1887 to 1938, it was a public school.
- Today the building is a museum.
- Fugitive: someone in hiding
- Abolitionist: someone who opposes slavery
Questions and Answers
Question: How did the school get its name?
Answer: The name came from the Greek word eleutheros, which means “freedom and equality.” Many people in Lancaster were abolitionists and the town played an important role in the Underground Railroad.
Watch a video about the college.
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Tobin, Declan. (2020). Eleutherian College - American History for Kids. American History for Kids. Retrieved from https://www.americanhistoryforkids.com/eleutherian-college/