On March 7, 1887, the General Assembly passed legislation allowing for the construction of a secondary school for the Robeson County Indians then called the Croatan and now known as the Lumbee.
First known as the Croatan Normal School, the institution’s main goal was to train Indians to become school teachers.
In 1909, the campus moved to its present location. As the curriculum expanded and 4 year degrees were offered, the school changed its name to the Pembroke State College for Indians. The campus officially became part of the University of North Carolina on July 1, 1972, as a result of consolidation leading to the creation of a sixteen-campus system. The name change to University of North Carolina at Pembroke became official in 1996.
In 1972 a campaign to save “Old Main,” the white-pillared centerpiece of the campus, drew national press coverage. The building, a symbol of Indian education and social progress, was restored in 1979. Once primarily an all-Indian school, associated with the Lumbee tribe, the university today serves a multi-racial student body.
In 2005 the General Assembly passed a law that recognized UNC-Pembroke as “North Carolina’s Historically American Indian University.”
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