Wilberforce University is a private, coed, liberal arts historically black university (HBCU) located in Wilberforce, Ohio. Affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, it was the first college to be owned and operated by African Americans. It participates in the United Negro College Fund.
The founding of the college was unique as a collaboration in 1856 by the Cincinnati, Ohio Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). They planned a college to provide classical education and teacher training for black youth. Leaders of both races made up the first board members.
When the number of students fell due to the American Civil War and financial losses closed the college in 1863, the AME Church purchased the institution to ensure its survival. Its first president, AME Bishop Daniel A. Payne, was one of the original founders. Prominent supporters and the US government donated funds for rebuilding after a fire in 1865. When the college added an industrial department in the late 19th century, state legislators could sponsor scholarship students.
The college attracted the top professors of the day, including W. E. B. Du Bois. In the 19th century, it enlarged its mission to include students from South Africa. The university supports the national Association of African American Museums to broaden the reach of its programs and assist smaller museums with professional standards.