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.
Edward Waters College began as an institution founded by blacks, for 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 by Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne. Observing the fast-paced social and political changes of the Reconstruction era, Rev. Pearce immediately recognized the need for an education ministry, as no provision had yet been made for the public education of Florida’s newly emancipated blacks. Assisted by the Reverend William G. Steward, the first AME pastor in the state, Pearce began to raise funds to build a school.
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. The College continues to experience the triumphs and challenges characteristic of its rich history and the bold dynamic future to which it aims.