The distinguished history of Jackson State University began on October 23, 1877. The University started as Natchez Seminary, a private school, under the auspices of the American Baptist Home Mission Society of New York for the purpose of educating Mississippi’s newly freed slaves. Beginning with only 20 students, the school operated for 63 years as a private church school. In November of 1882, the Society moved the school to Jackson to the site where Millsaps College now stands. A part of this transition was the renaming of the school to Jackson College in recognition of the institution’s new, central location in the City of Jackson. Natchez Seminary soon relocated from its site in north Jackson to a tract of land in the southwest section of the city. Construction on the new site began in 1902 and the University remains on this site today. In 1924, the first bachelor degree was awarded. During this period, the major educational activities were directed toward teacher education for in-service teachers. When the American Baptist Home Mission Society withdrew its support from the institution in 1934, it became apparent that state support was needed to sustain the school. The school was transferred from the private control of the church to the state education system and renamed Jackson State College. Initially the school had been specifically designated by the state to train rural and elementary teachers. In 1942, the Board of Trustees expanded the curriculum to a full four-year teacher education program culminating in the Bachelor of Science Degree in Education. The first four-year graduating class under state support received degrees in May 1944. A Division of Graduate Studies was organized during the summer of 1953 and the program of Liberal Arts started in the fall of that year. During the late sixties, the entire curriculum was reorganized and the following schools were established: The Schools of Liberal Studies, Education, Science and Technology, Business and Economics and the Graduate School. Through a legislative act, Jackson State College was designated Jackson State University on March 15, 1974. Jackson State College gained university status in accordance with the expanded breadth and quality of its faculty and academic programs.
From 1967-1977, the faculty had tripled in size and the number of faculty members with graduate degrees increased eightfold. In 1979, the University was officially designated the state’s Urban University by the Board of Trustees, State Institutions of Higher Learning. In the late 1980s, the University and its surrounding community were enriched through the expansion of the Universities Center; the establishment of the West Jackson Community Development Corporation to improve blighted housing around the campus; the organization of a Staff Senate; and the creation of a Center for Professional Development and the Center for Technology Transfer.
In the 1990s, a Campus Master Plan that projected the growth of the University into the 21st Century was developed. Fifteen new graduate and undergraduate programs evolved. These academic achievements were bolstered by the establishment of the School of Social Work, the formation of the School of Engineering, the fall 1998 opening of the School of Allied Health Sciences, the School of Business received by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), a $13.5 million expansion of the H. T. Sampson Library which doubled the capacity of the original structure; and the occupancy of the $17.2 million School of Liberal Arts building in 2001. In Fall 2000, the University received doctoral research intensive status with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. This prestigious designation was based on the awarding of more than 20 doctoral degrees from the Division of Graduate Studies and the $40 million in federally funded research contracts secured through the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. As the University entered the New Millennium and celebrated its 125th Anniversary in 2002, it developed and implemented its strategic plan -Beyond Survival: The Millennium Agenda for Jackson State University. The five-point strategic plan moved Jackson State University to a new level of academic excellence.