Teacher and schoolmaster William Hooper Councill won approval for his plan for the Huntsville State Normal School for Negroes, established by an act of the Alabama State Legislature in 1875. The school opened on May 1, 1875, at a church on Eustis Street, with instruction for 61 teaching students overseen by Principal Councill, assisted by Rev. Alfred Hunt. By 1878, the state appropriation increased from $1,000 to $2,000 and the school expanded its enrollment and curriculum.
In 1881, the faculty pooled money from their salaries to purchase two and a half acres (1.0 ha) on West Clinton Street. In 1885 the school, now with around 180 students, changes its name to State Normal and Industrial School of Huntsville, after the earlier addition of programs for sewing, printing, carpentry, mattress making and gardening. By 1890, the school site became known as Normal, Alabama, and a post office was established. In 1891, the school was designated as a land-grant college through legislative enactment under the terms of the Morrill Act of 1890. In 1896, its name was changed to The State Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes. In 1919, the school became the State Agricultural and Mechanical Institute for Negroes. In 1948 it was renamed the Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College. AAMU became fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1963. In June 1969, the school adopted its current name.
The new millennium saw the construction of the West Campus Complex, the erection of the 21,000-seat Louis Crews Stadium, the renovations of buildings and the moving of athletic programs to the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). The School of Engineering and Technology facility was built in 2002, and the Ph.D. program in Reading and Literacy was established. Andrew Huginewas approved by the Board of Trustees as the 11th president on June 18, 2009. In 2015, the Board of Trustees approved out-of-state scholarships for the Fall 2016 semester. The scholarships are contingent on prospective students meeting various academic qualifications.