The Institute for Colored Youth (ICY), was a school for Black American youth to receive an education and be part of the American society.

ICY, was founded on February 25, 1837, the founder was a Quaker silversmith, whom was born on Tortola in the British, Virgin Islands Richard Humphreys (1750 – 1832). In 1764, Humphreys came to the United States and settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to pursue a career as a goldsmith. Cincinnati Race Riot of 1829, prompted Humphreys to rewrite his will, after seeing many Black Americans lose their jobs to Irish Immigrants. Humphreys named thirteen fellow Quakers to design an institution, while he bequeathed 10,000.00, one-tenth of his entire estate towards the Institution.


Humphreys will reads: “benevolent society or institution…having for its object the benevolent design of instructing the descendants of the African race in school learning, in the various branches of the mechanic arts and trade, and in agriculture, in order to prepare and fit and qualify them to act as teachers in such of those branches of useful business as in the judgment of the said society they may appear best qualified for.


Humphreys died in 1832. Using the money Humphreys bequeathed, the Quakers formed an organization in 1837. For seven-years they experimented with agricultural and industrial education, as well as trade apprenticeship for Black American Youth, just as Humphreys wished in his will. But by 1851, the Quakers began to go in another direction. Despite what Humphreys stated he wanted in his will, they began to focus on preparing young Black boys and girls to teach. In 1852, the Institution for Colored Youth opened its doors at 716-718 Lombard Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.



Although operated by Quakers boards of managers, the faculty of the ICY consisted entirely of Black American men and women educators. ICY served as both an boys and girls High School, as well as a preparatory school. The school provided a classical education, with a curriculum including advanced education in mathematics, science, English, philosophy, and various social sciences, and classical languages. ICY managers initially planned to began charging a modest tuition, but by 1853, young Black boys and girls was still attending the ICY for free.


ICY was led by its first Black American principal Charles Lewis Reason (July 21, 1818 – August 16, 1893. Reason retired from this position in 1856, and Black American Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett (October 16, 1833 – November 13, 1908), replaced Reason. By 1861, the managers recognized a need for better facility for their growing school. After an extensive fundraising campaign, the managers were able to purchase a bigger lot at 915 Bainbridge Street, in Philadelphia. The new ICY building opened their doors on March, 9 1866, at this time Fanny Jackson Coppin (January 8, 1837 – January 21, 1913), was now the principal of ICY. The new ICY was capable of holding twice as many students as the original school and had add on facilities such as a lecture hall and Chemistry Laboratory.

In 1902, ICY moved to George Cheyney’s farm, West of Philadelphia, and renamed Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.


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