Article by Ennis Davis, AICP

Edward Waters College History

Edward Waters College was started by Bishop Charles H. Pearce in 1866 to educate the former enslaved, especially those desiring to enter African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church ministry. Originally known as the Brown Theological Institute, it was located in Live Oak, Florida. After financial difficulties, the school was relocated to Mt. Zion AME in Downtown Jacksonville in 1889 and the name was changed to Florida Normal Scientific and Divinity High School. In 1892, the name was changed to Edward Waters College in honor of the third bishop of the AME church. By this time, the school had relocated to Downtown Jacksonville.

Edward Waters College and Kings Road in 1928. (City of Jacksonville)

Situated on East Beaver Street in the Black Bottom, the original Jacksonville campus was destroyed during the Great Fire of 1901. This disaster led to Edward Waters College acquiring the current site in 1904 and establishing a new campus here by 1908. During the first half of the 20th century, several neighborhoods including New Town, Durkeeville and College Gardens grew up around the former rural school site. In 1960, it gained four-year college status and began to offer BA degrees. Notable alumni over the years include Civil Rights leader A. Philip Randolph, former Florida State Senator Betty Holzendorf (D-Jacksonville), Negro League baseball player Buck O’Neil, former Jacksonville sheriff Nat Glover and former U.S. Representative Corrine Brown.

Kings Road in 2020.

During the Fall Semester of 2020, the school had 969 enrolled students. Looking forward, the school is working to expand its undergraduate studies and offer its first master’s program, Florida’s oldest Historically Black College is in the process of becoming a university. Potential academic additions to the curriculum include Computer and Information Science, Forensic Science, Social Work and a Masters of Business Administration degree programs. Edward Waters College is located at 1658 Kings Road roughly between Tyler Street and Spires Avenue.

Next Page: Edward Waters College Photo Tour