Western University was a historically black college established in 1865 as the Quindaro Freedman’s School at Quindaro, Kansas after the Civil War. The earliest school for African Americans west of the Mississippi River, it was the only one to operate in the state of Kansas.

In the first three decades of the 20th century, its music school was recognized as one of the best in the country. Their Jackson Jubilee Singers toured from 1907-1940, and appeared on the Chautauqua circuit. Among the university’s most notable alumni were several women who were influential music pioneers in the early 20th century, including Eva Jessye, who created her own choir and collaborated with major artists such as Virgil Thomson and George Gershwin in New York City. Nora Douglas Holt was a composer, music critic and performer who toured in Europe as well as the United States. Etta Moten Barnett became known for singing the lead in Porgy and Bess in revival and on tour.

Expanded around the start of the 20th century with an industrial department modeled after Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute, the university served African American students for several generations. It struggled financially during the Great Depression, as did many colleges, and finally closed in 1943. None of its buildings are still standing.

For more information about Western University and Quindaro visit our Quindaro History page.

Search African American Newspapers in our database collection for articles on Western University.