On April 29, 1854, Lincoln University
, founded by John Miller Dickey
and his wife, Sarah Emlen Cresson, received its charter
from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, making it the nation's first degree-granting Historically Black College and University (HBCU).
In October 1853, the Presbytery of New Castle approved Dickey’s plan for the establishment of “an institution to be called Ashmun Institute, for the scientific, classical and theological education of colored youth of the male sex.”
On April 4, 1866, the The Ashmun Institute was re-named Lincoln University in honor of President Abraham Lincoln. At that time, Dickey then proposed to expand the college into a full-fledged university and to enroll students of “every clime and complexion.” Law, medical, pedagogical and theological schools were planned in addition to the College of Liberal Arts. White students were encouraged to enroll and two graduated in the first baccalaureate class of six men in 1868.
During its early years, Lincoln was known colloquially as "the Black Princeton" due to its Princeton University-educated founder and early faculty, rigorous classical curriculum, ties to the Presbyterian Church and its similarities in colors and mascots.Thurgood Marshall
, the first Black U.S. Supreme Court justice and civil rights advocate, and the legendary poet and activist Langston Hughes
— were classmates and notable graduates of Lincoln University.