Edward Waters College (EWC) is, distinctively, Florida’s oldest independent institution of higher learning as well as the state’s first institution established for the education of African Americans. Founded by blacks, in 1865, following the Civil War, the Reverend Charles H. Pearce, a presiding elder of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, was sent to Florida to start an education ministry, as no provision had yet been made for the public education of Florida’s newly emancipated blacks. From the beginning, EWC was faced with both abject poverty and widespread illiteracy among its constituents resulting from pre-war conditions of servitude and historical, legally enforced non-schooling of African Americans. However, the school met the needs of its community by offering courses at the elementary, high school, college, and seminary levels. In 1892 the school’s name was changed to Edward Waters College in honor of the third Bishop of the AME Church. With a history beginning in the dark yet hopeful days of Reconstruction, today’s Edward Waters College is living, thriving proof of the power of education and the resilience of deeply rooted educational institutions.
Notable Alumni: Jim “Cannonball” Butler– Former NFL player