The Allen University story begins seven years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and five years after the end of the American Civil War. The end of that conflict saw significant expansion of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the former Confederate States. Allen University grew out of the church’s desire to educate newly freed slaves and to ensure a well-trained clergy for the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The Right Revered John Mifflin Brown and the assembled clergy of the Columbia District of the AME Church, on July 29, 1870, agreed to raise funds to purchase a 150-acre farm in Cokesbury, South Carolina. They did so in hopes of locating a school there that would be the “FIRST INSTITUTION OF LEARNING CONSECRATED TO NEGRO SELF ACTIVITY AND NEGRO MANHOOD,” in the state of South Carolina.
The Reverend Simon Miller led a five-person committee in the actual development of a school on that land. Reverend Miller, who served as Presiding Elder of the Abbeville District of the AME Church and as founding past of Miller Chapel AME Church in Newberry, saw that hope become reality in the establishment of Payne Institute. The school was named in honor of Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne, a native South Carolinian, the founder of Wilberfoce University and the driving force behind the quest for an educated clergy and laity in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Payne Institute came into being in spite on objections of white South Carolinians who had a fear of educated African-Americans, and of black and white missionaries from the northern states, who questioned the ability of the AME Church to undertake such an educational enterprise. Through God’s grace, the Reverend Miller presented the deed for the land and buildings to the Columbia Annual Conference of the AME Church in 1871, making Payne Institute the property of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Information is from Allen Univerity's website