Philander Smith College is Little Rock’s oldest historically black educational institution. It was established in 1877 as Walden Seminary, by the African Methodist Episcopal Church to educate ministers. Its name changed after an endowment in 1882 by the widow of Illinois philanthropist Philander Smith. Wesley Chapel has always been associated with the college’s activities. The enslaved William Wallace Andrews founded Wesley in 1854 on land donated by his owner, U.S. Senator Chester Ashley. In 1864, parishioners celebrated their freedom with a “Parade of Emancipation.” Pastors at Wesley included Rev. J. C. Crenchaw, president of the Little Rock NAACP, and Rev. Negail Riley, leader of the Black United Fund. In the 1960’s, Philander Smith students participated in “sit-ins” at downtown lunch counters. Noted alumni include Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. surgeon general; professional athletes Elijah Pitts of the Green Bay Packers; Hubert “Geese” Ausbie of the Harlem Globetrotters; and Milton Pitts Crenchaw, a Tuskegee Airman; James Hal Cone, a pioneer of black liberation theology; Lottie Shackelford, former Mayor of Little Rock; Al Bell, founder of Stax Records and former president of Motown Records; and Stephanie Flowers, Arkansas State Senator
Now a privately supported, four-year liberal arts college affiliated with the United Methodist Church and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), PSC sits on an enclosed 12-square-block campus in the beautiful and historic Quapaw Quarter of downtown Little Rock.