Clinton Bowen Fisk (1830-1890) was an American military officer, educator, and social reformer who is best known for his work in founding Fisk University, one of the country’s most prominent historically Black colleges and universities. Fisk was born in New York and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1854. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War, rising to the rank of brigadier general and leading the Freedmen’s Bureau in Kentucky and Tennessee. After the war, he was appointed superintendent of the Freedmen’s Bureau in Tennessee.
In 1866, Fisk helped found the Fisk Free Colored School in Nashville, Tennessee, which later became Fisk University. The university was established to provide education for newly freed slaves and other Black Americans. Fisk served as the university’s first treasurer and later as its second president. Fisk was also involved in other social reform efforts, including the temperance movement and the promotion of women’s suffrage. He was a member of the board of trustees for the American Missionary Association, which supported many of these causes.
Fisk died in 1890 in New York City. Today, Fisk University continues to be a leading institution of higher education for Black students and is recognized for its contributions to the arts and humanities. The university’s library is named in honor of Clinton B. Fisk.