In August of 1865, 12 Black Baptist Churches met at Fifth Street Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky and organized the state Convention of Colored Baptist Churches in Kentucky.
Because there was no place in the state where Blacks could obtain a college education, members of the Convention soon began discussing the need to create a school for the training of Negroes – many of whom were one generation removed from slavery.
Having first given consideration to Frankfort, Kentucky as the home to the school, members of the Convention instead decided in 1869 to locate what would be known as the Kentucky Normal Theological Institute in Louisville,KY.
It was not until 10 years later in 1879, however, that any definite steps were taken for the opening of the school. In November of that year the trustees of the Convention of Colored Baptist Churches in Kentucky purchased 4 acres of land on the corner of 8th &Kentucky Street in Louisville that immediately served as the campus for the school.
That same year, the school opened its doors under the direction of its first President Rev. Elijah P. Marrs. After a brief one-year tenure, Rev. Marrs was succeeded by Dr. W.J. Simmons. Under the leadership of Dr. Simmons the school began to flourish in such a way that it would eventually be renamed Simmons University in appreciation for his contributions.
During his 10-year tenure from 1880 to 1890, the school became a full university and expanded its offerings to include liberal arts, college preparatory courses and medical, law, business, music, and theological departments. Additionally, the school was the home to competitive football, basketball, and baseball teams. Simmons University continued to grow and prosper until the effects of the Great Depression found its way to the school. In 1930, the campus was forced to sell its property due to a foreclosure on the mortgage. As a result, the school significantly scaled back its offerings.
By 1935 a new location was secured at1811 Dumesnil Street in West Louisville that allowed the school to continue with a more narrowed mission to simply educate young men and women for Christian service. In 1982 the school was renamed Simmons Bible College to more adequately reflect its mission.
In 2007, after 77 years of exile, Simmons College of Kentucky returned to its original 8th and Kentucky campus. Today, under the leadership of its 13th President Dr. Kevin W. Cosby, Simmons College of Kentucky continues in its mission to prepare Christians for ministry, while reinstating its initial mission of general education. With a curriculum designed to promote healthy ministries, the school is poised to become the nation’s leading authority on matters regarding church growth in the urban community.