JSU History


From a private church school in Natchez, Miss., with 20 newly freed slaves to a Carnegie-designated high research facility with an international enrollment approaching 9,000, Jackson State University’s transformation is a testament to courage, vision and leadership.

Washington Monthly magazine annually ranks JSU among the nation’s top colleges for social mobility, research and service, and it also is considered one of the top “Military Friendly Schools.”

The university, accredited by the Commission of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, offers 43 bachelor’s degrees, 36 master’s degrees, three specialist-in-education degrees and 11 doctoral degrees.


On a Mission

  • 1877: Founded in Natchez, Miss., as Natchez Seminary, operating under the auspices of the American Baptist Home Mission Society of New York. Twenty newly freed slaves enroll to become ministers and teachers.
  • 1882: Relocated to Jackson, Miss., on what is now the campus of Millsaps College. Renamed Jackson College.
  • 1885: Construction begins on the site now home to the university’s main campus.


Emerging Identity

  • 1924: First degree awarded.
  • 1934: American Baptist Home Mission Society withdraws support; move toward state control begins.
  • 1940: Renamed Mississippi Negro Training School. The state Institutions of Higher Learning expands curriculum to a four-year teacher education program.
  • 1944: Renamed Jackson College for Negro Teachers. First graduating class under state support receives bachelor of science degrees in education.
  • 1967: Renamed Jackson State College.
  • 1974: Renamed Jackson State University.
  • 1979: Designated Mississippi’s Urban University by the state Institutions of Higher Learning.



  • 1990s: Schools of Social Work, Engineering, Allied Health Sciences introduced; School of Business accredited; Public Policy and Administration master’s program elevated to departmental status, making it the only such department in Mississippi.
  • Infrastructure growth includes the $13.5 million renovation of the H.T. Sampson Library, the $2 million restoration of historic Ayer Hall and construction to house the School of Liberal Arts.
  • 1999: Landmark Jackson Heart Study, largest investigation of cardiovascular disease among African Americans, begins. Initially funded through a $12.9 million research grant, it receives an additional $54 million in 2005.


The New Millennium

  • University’s eight schools organized into five colleges: Business; Education and Human Development; Liberal Arts; Public Service; and Science, Engineering and Technology.
  • e-City, an economic, housing and community development initiative, created.
  • The Mississippi Learning Institute, a city-state partnership with an emphasis on math and reading, created.
  • Mississippi e-Center @ JSU, a technological hub for corporate, community and academic advancement, established; housed in a $20 million facility acquired from Allstate Corp. for only $3 million.
  • $200 million in construction: College of Liberal Arts, College of Business, Walter Payton Recreation and Wellness Center, Student Center, School of Engineering; new residence halls and apartments and the renovation of the Gibbs-Green Pedestrian Walkway connecting the campus and downtown Jackson.
  • 2010: Civil Rights corridor established along John R. Lynch Street featuring the historic COFO Education Center and the opening of the retail and residential development One University Place.
  • 2012: Launch of iPad initiative equipping freshmen with iPads to aid in learning.
  • 2013: Madison satellite site opened.
  • 2014: JSU 101 Building to open in downtown Jackson.


JSU Presidents
1877-1894: Dr. Charles Ayer
1894-1911: Dr. Luther G. Barrett
1911-1927: Dr. Zachary T. Hubert
1927-1940: Dr. B. Baldwin Dansby
1940-1967: Dr. Jacob L. Reddix
1967-1984: Dr. John A. Peoples, Jr.
1984-1991: Dr. James A. Hefner
1991-1992: Dr. Herman B. Smith, Jr. (interim)
1992-1999: Dr. James E. Lyons Sr.
1999-2000: Dr. Bettye Ward Fletcher (interim)
2000-2010: Dr. Ronald Mason, Jr.
2010: Dr. Leslie Burl McLemore (interim)
2011-2016: Dr. Carolyn W. Meyers
2016-2017: Dr. Rod Paige (interim)
2017-2020: Dr. William B. Bynum
2020-present: Thomas K. Hudson