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Simmons University records

Identifier: 1987_005-UA

This collection includes school catalogs, yearbooks, promotional literature, scrapbooks, and photographs; together with minutes and other publications of the school's sponsoring agency, General Association of Kentucky Baptists, formerly the General Association of Colored Baptists in Kentucky. Also present is material on Central Law School and Louisville National Medical College, affiliates of the college, and on the history of the General Assocation and Black Baptists in Kentucky, African American elementary, secondary, higher, and professional education in Kentucky, African Americans in Louisville, Kentucky's Day Law (1904), and Louisville Municipal College. Represented in the papers are William J. Simmons (1849-1890), and Charles Henry Parrish, Sr., president from 1918 to 1931. Also included is historical material from Simmons University including two scrapbooks, a 1926-1927 yearbook, and one 1928 unsigned diploma.


  • 1869-1971


Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in the Simmons Bible College Records have not been transferred to the University of Louisville.


5.5 linear feet (7 manuscript boxes; 1 half-manuscript box; 1 flat, one oversized image)

Organizational history

The predecessors of Simmons Bible College date to 1879, when the General Association of Colored Baptists in Kentucky (now called the General Association of Kentucky Baptists) opened the Kentucky Normal and Theological Institute on a 2.5 acre plot at Seventh and Kentucky streets in Louisville. E. P. Marrs served as the first principal of the Kentucky Normal and Theological Institute.

William J. Simmons served as president from 1880 to 1890, and in 1884 Kentucky Normal and Theological Institute changed its name to State University. Charles henry Parrish, Sr. became president of State University in 1918 and served until 1931. In 1919, the school's name changed to Simmons University, to honor William Simmons. Parrish's son, Charles Henry Parrish, Jr., also taught at Simmons University, the Louisville Municipal College, and finally at the University of Louisville.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, State University offered courses ranging from grammar school to professional training. During the 1880s, State University was coeducational and not exclusively academic in its offerings. It had an industrial department offering classes to develop skills that would useful in the home and in the marketplace. These courses included sewing, shoe making, chair caning, cooking, printing, photography, telegraphy, and carpeting. Early on, Simmons also offered classes in business, missionary and social work, theology and music. It also had a correspondence course for ministers. During the 1890s and 1900s, State also offered a law course through Central Law School, awarding LL.B. and LL.M. degrees.

Rules governing student behavior reflected the strict standards of conduct required by the Negro Baptist school. The school also encouraged a spirit of egalitarianism by forbidding women to wear expensive attire, encouraging students to work, requiring everyone to contribute to the upkeep of the buildings and grounds, controlling spending money through the presidents and directing all gift packages of food to the common dining table. By the 1920s during the administration of president Charles Henry Parrish, Sr. extracurricular activities included intercollegiate football, basketball, and baseball for men, and basketball for women.

Most students came from Kentucky, but the residence chart in the 1908-1909 catalogue listed other states and foreign countries, including South Africa.

One of the most significant additions to the University's property at Seventh and Kentucky came in 1924, when a new boys' dormitory was added. The trustees had first campaigned for the new addition among African American Baptist churches in Kentucky, but met with little response. Eventually, the school borrowed $60,000 from the Louisville Trust Company, part of which went toward the building's construction. The loan also placed all the school's obligations in the hands of one creditor. While Simmons had never been a wealthy instituiton, its financial situtaion worsened in the late 1920s and early 1930s, despite its best efforts at fundraising.

Simmons University, as it had operated for over fifty years, ceased to exist during the early 1930s. The school's property was sold to the University of Louisville, which opened the Louisville Municipal College (LMC) there in 1931. LMC offered undergraduate degrees in the arts and sciences until the University of Louisville was integrated on all levels and the segregated division closed in 1951. Meanwhile, Simmons University moved to Eighteenth and Dumesnil streets, where it became Simmons Bible College and continued to offer a theological course. Although no official kinship existed between the old Simmons University and the new Louisville Municipal College, the African American division of U of L took up some of the non-theological courses previously taught at Simmons, and, along with Kentucky State College in Frankfort, undertook to provide undergraduate education for Kentucky Blacks until the integration of undergraduates graduates and professional programs at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville during the late-1940s and early 1950s.

In 2005, Kevin W. Cosby of St. Stephen Baptist Church became president of Simmons College of Kentucky. Under his leadership, Simmons returned to its original campus, expanded its offerings, and obtained accreditation from the Association of Biblical Higher Education. It is a federally-recognized HBCU (Historically Black College/University), the only HBCU in Jefferson County.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The University of Louisville Archives received the Simmons Bible College records through Simmons President W. H. Holmes in 1974. The collection consists of a variety of material, some of it created by the school itself; some of it created by the General Association of Kentucky Baptists, the parent agency of Simmons Bible College; and some apparently collected as reference material by Holmes and his predecessors. Other sources for the history of Simmons Bible College and its predecessor schools include oral history interviews with Charles Henry Parrish, Jr. and the Parrish Papers in the University of Louisville Archives; the American Baptist newspaper;. President's Office Records in the University of Louisville Archives relating to the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes, a segregated, Black undergraduate division of the University of Louisville which occupied the former Simmons property at Seventh and Kentucky streets from 1931 to 1951; and George C. Wright's "Blacks in Louisville Kentucky, 1890-1930" (Ph.D,dissertation., Duke University 1977). Records of the General Association of Kentucky Baptists are another possible source. Some of the Simmons Bible College Records were microfilmed before final processing. The arrangement of the film and the "hard" copy described in this summary inventory do not correspond.


Simmons Bible College Records
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections Repository

Ekstrom Library, Lower Level Room 17
Louisville KY 40292
502 852-6752