The Oakland Memorial Chapel: Alcorn’s Black History


February, as many of us know, is Black History Month, which dwells into the historical and groundbreaking contributions that African Americans have bestowed upon the United States of America as well as the world. Alcorn State University (ASU), throughout its illustrious history, has gifted the planet with Civil Rights leaders, teachers, doctors, actors, writers, professional athletes and more individuals from varying fields which have helped to write several chapters in the history books. Another notable Alcorn contributor to Black History is not a person or a place but a historical landmark which resides on ASU’s campus called the Oakland Memorial Chapel. Its story in history dates back to 1838.

In 1838, Oakland College occupied Alcorn’s current location in Lorman, Mississippi. It was a college established in 1828 by Reverend Jeremiah Chamberlain as part of a Presbyterian mission to educate Caucasian children of the region. The College was closed during the Civil War and reopened shortly thereafter but ultimately failed to recover financially and was soon sold. It was then purchased by the state of Mississippi in 1871 and renamed Alcorn A&M College with a mission to educate African Americans. It then became the oldest public historically black land-grant institution in the nation.

The Oakland Memorial Chapel, being built in 1838 as part of Oakland College, served as a place where attendees of the college could gather and worship as well as pursue their studies. The beautiful majestic steps that sit directly in front of the Chapel doors were moved in 1890 from the Windsor Plantation in Port Gibson, Mississippi to give the building a more regal appearance. Over the years Alcorn has continued to build around the historical building (which is the oldest building on the campus), treating it as the centerpiece of the university, leaving its history untouched. In 1976, the Chapel was named a national historic landmark and was designated as a Mississippi landmark in 1985.

What started out as a chance to give African Americans a place to become educated has continued to excel over the years in knowledge and character. The history is endless upon the campus and the Oakland Memorial Chapel serves as one of the many historical buildings of the university.