In 1865 two former slaves - William Savery and Thomas Tarrant of Talladega attended a meeting in Mobile of new freedmen. At the meeting it was decided that education of the children and an emphasis on religion would be the most important things the ex-slaves could do to promote success and opportunity for future generations of blacks in Alabama.
To keep the commitments made at the conference the men opened a one-room school house built with salvaged lumber for the children of the community's former slaves. Quickly they found the one-room school would not be able to do the job and larger quarters were needed.
In an ironic twist of fate a nearby Baptist Academy for white students but built by slaves, including Savery and Tarrant, came available. The two men approached General Swayne of the Freedmen's Bureau and a man with whom they had worked before, for help in purchasing the school and property.
General Swayne was able to persuade the American Missionary Association to buy the school and in November, 1867 the school opened with 140 pupils. The school became Alabama's first college dedicated to serving the educational needs of blacks.