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A Brief History of Deep South Colleges

by Nicole Lewis

Deep South refers to states that were the original Confederacy members. It is after the end of the Civil War that the term gained currency. Prior to this period, those states were referred to as the Lower South, but after that, they came to be known as the Deep South. The implication was that’s where Southern culture was highly concentrated. The concerned states include Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and East Texas, but for the purpose of this article, the focus will be placed on the history of higher education facilities in this region.

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Here is a brief history of higher education in America and particularly for the Deep South states:

South Carolina

This state was eighth in joining the union in 1788, making it the 13th-oldest public college. South Carolina was a key player in the development of what came to be referred to as Deep South culture.

The first college to be established in this part was Charleston College in 1770, but it is only in 1785 that a charter was awarded. Today, South Carolina has 33 institutions, with Clemson University being the best public college.

Apart from public institutions, there were other private ones such as Furman University, which started in 1825 as an academy/seminary and is named after Richard Furman, a Baptist leader. In 1925, Furman positioned the institution as an academic center, though still holding onto its Christianity tenets. By the 1950s, the institution had a population of 1,200.

By this time, the issue of racism had started cropping up, but students stood firm to oppose it buoyed by the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling.


The last of the original Thirteen Colonies, Georgia was surprisingly the first state to have a college of its own. In 1785, Georgia received its own charter. For this reason, the University of Georgia located in Athens is the oldest public institution in the U.S.

Georgia is home to 57 public institutions and 36 others, which are nonprofit making. There is also another private university known as Emory University that was opened in 1836. As per a 2014 report by U.S. News and World Report, the institution was 20th in the category of the best schools.

Another popular institution in Atlanta is Morehouse College, which was started in 1867 to serve post-secondary interests of African-American students.


Florida State University was established in 1851, and in 2014 it had over 41,000 students at its campuses in Tallahassee. Another notable university here is the University of Florida, which is based in Gainesville. The college was started in 1853 as a small seminary but later expanded into a fully fledged institute. As per a 2014 report, it had over 50,000 students.


Louisiana was the 18th nation to join the United States. At the time, this state was home to people of diverse cultural backgrounds. For example, there were Spanish, French settlers and African-Americans who were the majority. The first tertiary public institution was opened a decade after joining the union. In 1825, Louisiana was allowed to open a college in Jackson, and 20 years later, this academic center partnered with Centenary College after it was denied state funding. The college, which is now a private, nonprofit making academic institution, hosts about 800 students both in its undergraduate and postgraduate programs.


Mississippi was the 20th state to join the union in 1817. Its first colleges were founded in 1826 by the Baptist church, but only 37 years later the state managed to set up its own public facility now known as Ole Miss or the University of Mississippi. No wonder the state is the topmost religious of all states if a Gallup Poll done in 2011 is anything to go by. Currently, Mississippi owns 24 public universities with a total of about 17,000 students.

These are not the only prominent colleges and universities in the Deep South, but they were chosen for their significant pasts and colorful histories.’

Nicole Lewis is a writer and researcher for EduBirdie.com. She loves to study topics concerning history and education and is always ready to learn something new.

Photo Credits: All photos from Flickr Creative Commons. Furman University by Diane Cordell, Florida State University by Jackson Myers and Mississippi State University by Jimmy Smith

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