Adams College was established by the American Board Mission in 1853. The College is named after Dr Newton Adams, who started a mission station in 1847 on the of Adams College.
Dr Adams died in 1851 and the Rev Rood was sent to open a school which he did in 1853. Rood was the principal and the sole teacher and there were 9 male pupils. I t was only in 1909 that the female students were admitted for the first time. Dr Adam's work was not forgotten and the school was named after him in the 1939s. Up until then it had been known as Amanzimtoti Institute.

Apart from the break from approximately 1856 to 1865 the College continued to flourish until 1965 when it was closed on account of Bantu Education Act (No47 of 1953). In its heyday, the College comprised a Teacher's training College, a high school. A Theological College, an industrial school and music school. In 1940 control of the college was handed over by the American Board Mission to the local Board of governors, and the management was vested in a non-profit making company, Adams College (Inc.).
In 1956 Adams College became known as the Amanzimtoti of Education. However in 1990 the name was reverted back to Adams College.
In 2000 the teacher training section was phased out The status of the school changed from College of Education to Secondary school, but the school retained the name Adams College.