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Allen University was founded by the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in 1870. The University has a distinguished history, rich in the tradition of promoting spiritual growth and training men and women to become productive leaders in an ever- changing society. Manifesting the dream of Daniel Alexander Payne, an apostle of black education in the United States, Allen University educated men and women for stellar leadership and service.

Under the leadership of Bishop John M. Brown on July 29, 1870, the Columbia Conference purchased 150 acres of land in historic Cokesbury, SC. At the Annual Conference, the deed for the land and buildings was presented by Reverend Simon Miller, and the Institute was named in honor of Daniel A. Payne. For its first 10 years, the school prospered in fulfilling its mission of developing an educated clergy in the face of repression and violent opposition during the Reconstruction Era in South Carolina.