Slater Industrial Academy, established in Winston-Salem on September 28, 1892, was the forerunning institution to Winston-Salem State University. The original academy was only a one-room building and the first class of twenty-five students had just one teacher, Simon Green Atkins. Yet, just five years after the founding of Slater, the General Assembly chartered the school, and in 1865 the Slater Industrial Academy became the Slater Industrial and State Normal School.
Due to the school’s success in preparing elementary teachers, the North Carolina legislature rechartered the school in 1925. The school’s name was changed to Winston-Salem Technical Teachers College, and according to historian William S. Powell, “the school thus became the first African American institution in the nation to grant degrees for teaching in the elementary grades” (Encyclopedia, p. 1217). Another hallmark of the university, nursing, became a part of the college’s curricula in 1953.
Winston-Salem Technical Teachers College grew dramatically in the 1950s and 1960s. Its curricula expanded again in 1957 when new degrees in secondary education and other training programs were added by the State Board of Higher Education. The General Assembly changed the name of the college to Winston-State College in 1963. Six years later the school adopted its current title, Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) in 1969. As the General Assembly consolidated the University of North Carolina System, WSSU was added to institution list in 1972.
WSSU’s student body numbered slightly over 2,900 students in the 2000s. Students enrolled in English, business, commercial music, and sports management programs, and Winston-Salem State started to offer graduate programs. The current campus rests on a 94 acre plot in Forsyth County, and important locales on campus include the Diggs Art Gallery and the sculpture garden. In addition, WSSU operates Camp Robert Vaughn, a 250 acre camp that is 20 miles away from the home campus.
Today, Winston-Salem State University continues to focus on educating teachers. Its nursing program had grown into a well-renowned program. Enrollment has increased to nearly 6,500 students, and the university offers over forty different undergraduate degrees and ten graduate programs. According to the school’s website, WSSU had remained a historically black institution but the student body has diversified in recent years.
“Winston-Salem State University.” William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006).
“Winston-Salem State University.” North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program website. A Division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. (accessed January 23, 2012).
“About WSSU.” Winston-Salem State University website. http://www.wssu.edu/about/default.aspx, (accessed February 13, 2012).