Concordia College Alabama

 

Concordia College Alabama has grown much from its humble beginnings in 1922 as Alabama Luther College. Today, Concordia boasts a student body representing a diversity of geographic, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as the distinctive status as the nation’s only Historically Black Lutheran College or University (HBCU).

Concordia’s beginning has its roots in the desire of a woman named Rosa Young, to provide good Christian education to the rural African-Americans of central Alabama. Through her tireless efforts, her school in Wilcox County, which began with seven students, had grown to 215 in just three terms. In 1914, however, the Mexican Boll Weevil devastated the cotton industry and economy in the area, and many of the parents were now unable to continue sending their children to Young’s school. In desperation to find financial help, Young wrote to the famed founder of the Tuskegee Institute (Tuskegee University), Booker T. Washington. About their correspondence, Rosa Young said, “In this letter he told me he was unable to help me in the least; but he would advise me to write to the Board of Colored Missions of the Lutheran Church. He said they were doing more for the colored race than any other denomination he knew of. He liked them because of the religious training which they were giving the colored people.” By the end of 1915, Young had followed Washington’s advice and wrote to the Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America for help.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a member of the Lutheran Synodical Conference, responded favorably to Young’s letter and sent the Rev. Nils J. Bakke to evaluate the situation and report back. Bakke arrived on Dec. 17, 1915 and on Dec. 21, he returned to St. Louis with his report. Bakke’s report was a plea for assistance in establishing a mission to the area.

In January 1916, Bakke returned to Alabama, and by Easter 1916, had performed a total of 61 baptisms and 70 confirmations in Rosebud, Ala., including that of Young herself. (click here for directions to Rosebud church and gravesite of Rosa Young) Within just a few years, there were almost 30 new congregations, and preparations were begun for a school. A conference held in Midway, near Millers Ferry in 1919, adopted a resolution petitioning the Synodical Conference for funds to begin a school for the purpose of training church workers. On Nov. 13, 1922, in a rented cottage at 521 First Ave., the first classes of Young’s new school were held in Selma, Ala. As the student body continued to grow, the need for space became more pressing. On Sept. 20, 1925, the first buildings on the present campus were dedicated to the glory of God. The next year, four women made up the school’s first graduating class.

Under God’s watchful eye, Alabama Luther College survived the Great Depression, but it had lost its college and been renamed Alabama Lutheran Academy. It was not long though before the necessity of   bringing a college education to African-Americans was again realized, and a program of modernization was initiated, which resulted in the formation of Alabama Lutheran Academy and College. On July 1, 1981, Alabama Lutheran Academy and College was officially changed to Concordia College.

Two years later, Concordia received accreditation as an associate-degree granting institution by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). In 1994, SACS granted Concordia accreditation as a bachelor’s degree granting institution. Concordia continued to grow as a four-year institution, and in 2010, it acquired the property of the United Methodist Children’s Home, expanded the size of the campus from 22 acres to 57, as well as adding additional housing and historic buildings.

In her valedictorian speech during her graduation from Payne University in 1909, Young stressed the obligation of service when she wrote, “‘He that is greatest among you shall be your servant,’ is the language of the Great Teacher. To serve is regarded as a divine privilege as well as a duty by every right-minded man.” Today, Concordia continues in those words as it seeks to “prepare students through Christ-centered education for lives of responsible service to the church, community and the world.”