Choctaw Academy

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: 1825 to 1842
Location: Georgetown, Kentuckymap
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"On October 15, 1825, twenty-one boys left the Choctaw Nation for Choctaw Academy in Kentucky. The chiefs and leading men had successfully pushed for a school outside the Nation noted their departure with satisfaction and pride. Although several mission schools had been established in the Choctaw Nation, the Academy as an elite academic institution where promising youths would pursue advanced studies and acquire the skills needed to assume civic responsibilities in a Nation confronted by an expanding white population."[1]


Academy History

"In 1818, the Baptist Mission Society of Kentucky started the Choctaw Indian Academy at Great Crossings, Kentucky, located near Georgetown and (Richard Mentor) Johnson's home. The school soon failed, however, from a lack of funding. When some Choctaw Mississippi lands were ceded to the United States, the tribal leaders requested that some of the treaty money be used to fund educational initiatives. Therefore, they reached out to Johnson. The congressman, along with his brother-in-law, William Ward, the U.S. government agent for the Choctaw Nation in Mississippi, had the school restarted in 1821."[2]

"By request of Choctaw leaders, the school was placed outside Choctaw lands. In doing so, Choctaw people could better control their own direct environment without foreigners living amongst them. The school for native children would still expose Choctaw children to the ways of Euro-Americans without putting them in an otherwise all-white school. ... The overwhelming push for education by the Choctaw people was strategic. Armed with the proper skills, the next generation of Choctaws would defend the people’s rights and lands going forward. Funded by the government money and sponsored by the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, the Choctaw Academy began in 1825 and closed in 1845 with the last students leaving in 1848."[3]

"The Choctaw Academy was the first racially integrated, non-military, secular school funded by the U.S. government. This was only the second school funded by the federal government, the first being West Point military academy..." - Choctaw Academy Restoration Project

Academy Proponents

  • Richard Mentor Johnson, Kentucky
    • U.S. Congressman and U.S. Vice President
    • Provided buildings and grounds at his Blue Springs Farm to house the school

Academy Students

"The students of the Choctaw school’s day began with the beating of the drum calling them to the classroom. They opened class with singing and a prayer. At nine o’clock they were given a half an hour for breakfast. At 12 o’clock they dismissed for two hours. Later in the afternoon, they were give(sic) half an hour for dinner. School ended at sundown."[4]

Although the school was funded by the Choctaw, there were students from upward of twenty tribes educated during the years in operation. There may have also been some local students from the surrounding Kentucky families. After completing their course work most students returned to their homes, but some continued to advanced studies, several at nearby Transylvania University.

Historian Carolyn Foreman who wrote a series of articles on the Academy and transcribed several lists of students who attended in the years 1829-1839. These were published in the Chronicles of Oklahoma:

Note: The names listed below are just a sampling from each year.
Students 1825[5]
Students 1826[5]
  • James Barbour 12
  • George Durant 18
  • Jackson Leflore 17
Students 1827 Foreman
  • Adam Christy 13
  • David Folsom 16
  • Lewis Garland 13
  • James Henry 15
  • David M Webster 13
  • Simeon Wade 15
Students 1828 Foreman
Students 1829
Students 1834
*Appointed as Governor or elected as Chief of the Choctaw Nation.


ca 1942

2025 Will Mark 200 Years from the start of the remaining Choctaw Academy structure being used for students of the school.

"This is the oldest standing structure associated with Choctaw history that we’re aware of. Several of our chiefs were educated here.” - Ian Thompson, Choctaw Nation Representative[6]

It is likely though that the building pre-dates this use. Johnson writes in 1825 about existing structures on his property for the use of the school. However, it is not clear if the remaining building is one he described or later purpose built.

Johnson wrote to advise the (War) Department, 27 September, 1825,' that " . . I have a house with 3 rooms 20x30 feet which I shall appropriate exclusively to their accommodation. I have another house with four Rooms 20 feet square which will do for the Teacher to live in & one room for the school-the whole establishment will be within my own fences so that no time shall be lost;"[7]
ca 2010's
RCI and RCIF Kick Off Choctaw Academy Initiative
By Tara Wilson
December 1, 2018
Pictured on the cover of this month’s RCI Interface is the last remaining structure of what was once the Choctaw Academy in Georgetown, Kentucky. The Academy was the first federally funded, racially integrated, non-missionary, and non-military school for Native American boys in the U.S.—an institution that brought together students from 18 different tribes, enabling them to later champion for their people in a time when it was needed most.
* Continue Reading *
Recent Choctaw Academy Preservation In The News
READ|Grant match requested for Choctaw Academy restoration Georgetown News-Graphic 16 May 2022
(update) Legal document potentially makes Choctaw grant possible Georgetown News-Graphic 21 Sep 2022
ca 2022
LISTEN|Saving Choctaw Academy WEKU Eastern, KY 23 Nov 2022
WATCH|'Once it's gone, it's gone forever': Efforts underway to save Native American landmark LEX18 Lexington, KY 30 Nov 2022
WATCH|Saving Choctaw Academy, telling its story WKYT Lexington, KY 4 Dec 2022


  • Foreman, Carolyn Thomas, Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 10, No. 1 1932 The Choctaw Academy pages 77 - 114
  • Great Crossings: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in the Age of Jackson. By Christina Snyder. ( New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xiv, 402. $29.95, ISBN 978-0-19-939906-2.)
  • An alphabetized list of Choctaw students at the Academy (unsourced) HERE 12 pages


  1. Drake, Ella Wells. “Choctaw Academy: Richard M. Johnson and the Business of Indian Education.” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, vol. 91, no. 3, 1993, pp. 260–297. JSTOR, Accessed 28 Mar. 2020.
  2. Tim Talbott, “Choctaw Indian Academy,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed February 28, 2021,
  3. “The Choctaw Academy: Investing in Future Choctaw Leaders.” Biskinik, Feb. 2018, Accessed 18 Mar. 2023.
  4. “Not Just a Hunting Ground: Native Americans in Kentucky - Choctaw Academy.” Lex History, Lexington History Museum,
  5. 5.0 5.1 Foreman Carolyn, Chronicles of Oklahoma - Vol VI. #4, Dec 1928 pgs 453-480
  6. Evlen, Tom, Crumbling landmark tells a 'challenging story.' Now, Choctaw Academy will be saved. Lexington Herald Leader 21 Jun 2018
  7. Oklahoma Historical Society. Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 6, Number 4, December 1928, periodical, December 1928; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. ( accessed March 18, 2023), The Gateway to Oklahoma History,; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society.

Comments: 8

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Devereaux Jarrett Bell Bell-34778 was a student at the Choctaw Academy in 1834.
posted by Kathie (Parks) Forbes
Thank Kathie, I've added him under the new heading for 1834.
posted by Ronald Prentice
BTW - there is a category if you want to add to his provile:


posted by Ronald Prentice
Thank you for creating this great page. I am not able to see any of the links referring to the lists of students. The links go to a site and states that the information is restricted. This would be helpful as I believe I am researching a former attendee of the academy.
posted by Lukas Murphy
I think the links have changed. There is open access to the Chronicles of Oklahoma, here's a link to one of the issues with an article on the Choctaw Academy:

There is a text search feature that should take you to the other articles as well.

posted by Kathie (Parks) Forbes
edited by Kathie (Parks) Forbes
Thanks for bringing this to our attention. It seems the access has shifted from Oklahoma State University to the Oklahoma Historical Society. I will update the links on this page as soon as possible. The link Kathie provides above will assist for the 1931 article. You may use the "Jump To" field on the left side of the page to move directly the start of the article on page 382.

Don't hesitate to ask for assistance with other Choctaw related items.


RP - Choctaw Team, Native Americans Project

posted by Ronald Prentice
edited by Ronald Prentice
Broken links on this page have now been updated. Thanks again for your message!

RP - Choctaw Team, Native Americans Project

posted by Ronald Prentice
Also, once you have a profile created for the student I'll be happy to link the profile on this page.

Thanks again!

posted by Ronald Prentice