The Walker County Historical Commission has commissioned a historical marker to be placed at the corner of Old Madisonville Road and Pleasant Street in Huntsville. The site was the location of the Bishop Ward Normal and Collegiate Institute which was founded in 1883. That year, 10 students were enrolled and attended school in a two-story brick building on the property that had been purchased by a board of trustees who were affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Students took a traditional liberal arts curriculum. But there was also a manual labor department where students could learn a trade.
A year later, there were 164 students enrolled at the institute. But it closed only a few years later.
Donna Coffen, vice chair of the Walker County Historical Commission, told The Huntsville Item that “the institution was only open for four to six years and it has been lost to history for the most part, even amongst the African American community. I think it is so important to remember because it really added a piece to the historical puzzle. It is a missing link and we continue to learn more about local African American history, which is crucial for all of us.”