Rev. Charles Avery established a college for free African- Americans to gain a classical education. The college opened in 1849 and closed in 1873. An article published in the Pittsburgh Daily Post, April 2nd, 1858 stated that students were being given oral exams at the end of the term. These exams consisted of questions in "grammar, arithmetic, geography, chemistry, astronomy, composition, parsing, and history. Graduates included; Henry Ossawa Tanner, the first internationally recognized African-American artist, Benjamin Tucker Tanner, an A.M.E. minister/ bishop who went on to found the Freedman's school program after the American Civil war, and Jeremiah Brown who went on to become the first African-American to serve in the Ohio House of Representatives and the first African- American Sheriff in the State of Ohio.
Backstory and Context
Immediately to the north of Pittsburgh was Allegheny City, which is now the Northside of Pittsburgh. Allegheny City had some prominence in the abolition movement as well as the Underground Railroad. Reverend Charles Avery was a noted philanthropist in Allegheny City, he was a strong abolitionist, industrialist, and lay minister of the Methodist Church. Avery had a grand idea of opening a combined college, school and church in Allegheny City. This college and church would offer a liberal arts education and vocational education to African-American students of college-age as well as students of elementary age. The building also contained an African Methodist Episcopal Church for worship. The initial tuition for the college was two dollars per term.
Avery was also a strong supporter of the Underground Railroad, Avery made his church a stop on the railroad. The church had a tunnel in the basement that led to the Pennsylvania Canal, which then led to the Allegheny River. Charles Avery’s philanthropy paid for the legal representation of Africans in front of the U.S. Supreme Court during the Amistad Trial. His philanthropy continued after his death, he left $300,000 to continue to support African people through the American Missionary Society and for African-Americans, dedicating $150,000 to colleges for the education of African-Americans.
MacIntyre, Shawn. Abolition and the Underground Railroad in Pittsburgh - Part 3, The Magical History Tour. December 8th 2018. Accessed November 17th 2019. https://magicalhistory.blog/2018/12/07/abolitionism-and-the-underground-railroad-in-southwestern-pennsylvania-part-3/.
. Avery College, Newspapers.com. May 15th 2018. Accessed November 17th 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/20112282/avery_college/.