Lemoyne-Owens College is the product of a merger between LeMoyne College and Owen College in 1968. The two institutions both had rich traditions as private, church-related colleges aimed at developing Black students and providing education to them in the Mid-South. The precursor to the LeMoyne Normal and Commercial School opened in 1862 when the American Missionary Association sent Lucinda Humphrey to open an elementary school for freedmen and runaway slaves to Camp Shiloh. The school was moved to Memphis in 1863 but was destroyed by fire during the race riots. The school was reopened in 1867 but was met with financial problems. The name LeMoyne is in honor of Dr. Francis J. LeMoyne, a Pennsylvania doctor, and abolitionist who donated $20,000 to the American Missionary Association.
Owens College began in 1947 when the Tennessee Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention bought property to build a junior college. The School opened in 1954 as S.A. Owen Junior College but later changed to just Owen Junior College. The merger of Owen and Lemoyne Colleges combined a mutual commitment to a liberal arts education with career training in a Christian setting. Notable Alumni Include: former Washington, DC Mayor Marion Barry; former NAACP executive director Benjamin Hooks; and Wisconsin legislator and civil rights activist Lloyd Barbee.