Howard University

From New World Encyclopedia

Howard University
Founders Library, Howard University.jpg
Latin: Howard Universitas
Motto Veritas et Utilitas
(Truth and Service)
Established 1867
Type Private, HBCU
Location Washington, D.C.,
United States

Howard University is a private, coeducational, university located in Washington, D.C. in the United States. One of several Historical Black Colleges in the United States, Howard University's location and history has often made the school a central participant in many of the significant racial issues and decisive moments in United States history. The school continues to maintain and outstanding reputation and attract and teach a large number of students, particularly African Americans. As such, it has great significance serving to advance the development of American society from its past of slavery, racial segregation, and racial discrimination against African Americans, through the Civil Rights Movement to a time when United States elected an African American president.

Although Howard's student body was originally all black, and they continue to be the majority, it has always maintained an open admissions policy to students of all races and religions. The United States continues its path of bringing together peoples from all cultures, seen by many as part of its special role as a leader in human progress. With American advances in overcoming racial discrimination, Howard faces the challenge of continuing to provide excellent education to those of a particular race while preparing them to live in a multi-ethnic society.

Mission and Reputation

Main building of Howard University c. 1900

Howard University's central emphasis is placed upon "providing an educational experience of exceptional quality to students of high academic potential with particular emphasis upon the provision of educational opportunities to promising Black students."[1] The special emphasis on attracting African American and other minority students comes from Howard's tradition as a Historical Black College, providing a free and encouraging environment of learning and intellectual pursuit to minorities. Howard University also places emphasis on developing a faculty that are "through their teaching and research, committed to the development of distinguished and compassionate graduates and to the quest for solutions to human and social problems in the United States and throughout the world."[1]

Often thought of as one of the best Historically Black Colleges, Howard has a strong reputation in the United States. In 2009, the school was ranked 102nd among national universities in the U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Colleges 2009" rankings.[2] Howard University has often been calculated as the number-one producer of African American Ph.D.s in the United States,[3] earning it the reputation of being the "Black Harvard."[4]


Howard after the American Civil War
Main Hall and Miner Hall in 1868. Miner Hall is located to the left.

Established on March 2, 1867 under a charter enacted by Congress and approved by President Andrew Johnson, the college was named after General Oliver O. Howard who was commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau.[5] From its outset, it was nonsectarian and open to people of both genders and all races.[6]

While the school held large enrollments for its first 50 years, the school was not nationally accredited, nor did have a reputation for excellence until major changes during the first part of the twentieth century. In 1918, all the secondary schools of the university were abolished and the whole plan of undergraduate work changed. The four-year college course was divided into two periods of two years each, the Junior College, and the Senior Schools. The semester system was abolished in 1919 and the quarter system substituted. Twenty-three new members were added to the faculty between the reorganization of 1918 and 1923. A dining hall building with class rooms for the department of home economics was built in 1921; a greenhouse was erected in 1919; and Howard Hall was renovated and made a dormitory for women.[5] In 1926, Mordecai Wyatt Johnson was appointed the University's first Black President. He continued the campus expansion, improving the university's reputation. In 1955, Howard established a Ph.D. granting program.[7]

Howard University played an important role in American history and the Civil Rights Movement on a number of occasions. Alain Locke, Chair of the Department of Philosophy and first African American Rhodes Scholar, authored The New Negro, which helped to usher in the Harlem Renaissance.[8] Ralph Bunche, who served as chair of the Department of Political Science, became the first Nobel Peace Prize winner of African descent.[9]

Dr. Ralph Bunche, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1951

Stokely Carmichael, also known as Kwame Toure, a student in the department of Philosophy and the Howard University School of Divinity coined the term "Black Power" and worked in Lowndes County, Alabama as a voting rights activist.[10] Historian Rayford Logan served as chair of the department of History.[11] E. Franklin Frazier served as chair of the department of Sociology.[12]

After being refused admission to the then white-only University of Maryland School of Law, Lincoln University graduate Thurgood Marshall enrolled at Howard University School of Law instead. There he studied under Charles Hamilton Houston, a Harvard Law School graduate and leading civil rights lawyer, who at the time was the dean of Howard's law school. Houston took Marshall under his wing, and the two forged a friendship that would last for the remainder of Houston's life. Howard University was the site where Marshall and his team of legal scholars from around the nation prepared to argue the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case.[13]

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered a speech to the graduating class at Howard, where he outlined his plans for civil rights legislation and endorsed aggressive affirmative action to combat the effects of years of racial segregation.[14]

In 1989, Howard gained national attention when students rose up in protest against the appointment of then-Republican National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater as a new member of the university's Board of Trustees. Student activists disrupted Howard's 122nd anniversary celebrations, and eventually occupied the university's administration building.[15] Within days, both Atwater and Howard's President, James E. Cheek, resigned.

In April 2007, the head of the faculty senate called for the ouster of Howard University president H. Patrick Swygert, saying that the school was in a state of crisis, prompted by a National Science Foundation audit which condemned Howard’s management of several federal research grants.[16] The Division of Nursing faced losing its accreditation and being placed on probation for a second time because of the program's deficiencies. The Division of Allied Health Science, Physical Therapy, and Physician Assistant program were also put on probational accreditation status.[17] In addition, the residency programs at Howard University Hospital received a much-publicized unfavorable assessment by the Accrediting Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).[18] Swygert announced in May 2007 that he would retire from Howard in June 2008.[16]

Despite these setbacks, Howard University has continued looking forward, striving to achieve its stated goals and to live up to its national reputation. In May, 2008 Sidney A. Ribeau was named 16th president of Howard University, the unanimous choice of the University’s Trustees. He had previously served as president of Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Under his leadership, Bowling Green State University was recognized for its residential learning communities, values-based education, and innovative graduate programs.[19] Speaking on his appointment, Ribeau noted:

Howard is a remarkable university, a truly international university and one that has made significant contributions not only in this country but around the world, training principally African Americans for global leadership roles in America and the world.[19]


Howard University is an urban campus located in Washington, D.C.. Many of the structures on campus are historic, and copy the masonry style of Washington, D.C.'s government buildings.[20] The Mordecai Johnson Administration Building is the central administrative building on campus, housing the offices of President, Provost and other administrative heads. The main quad area of the university is called the Yard and is the main center point of the campus.

Howard has an extensive library system, organized into the central Founder's Library with four specialized branches: Architecture, Social Work, Business, and Divinity. Also contained in the Library system are the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, the Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library, the Law Library, the Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center Library, and the Afro-American Studies Resource Center.[21] The Library system's collection includes 2.4 million volumes, historical manuscripts, and rare works.[21]

The University's Gallery of Art' hosts Howard's collection of African American art, European and other cultural and period art and artifacts.[22] The Ira Aldridge Theatre is the main performing arts venue of the campus, while Cramton Auditorium is the university's main space for large events, lectures, and convocation.

Greene's Stadium is the main athletic field for Howard University's soccer, lacrosse, and football games. Burr Gymnasium houses the university's basketball team, while The Pulse is the central exercise and health facility for students and staff.[20]

Schools and research centers

Howard has a range of undergraduate and graduate schools, as well as the Middle School of Mathematics and Science (MS)_, a public charter middle school which has a specific focus on mathematics and science. The university also has a large number of research centers and institutes, notably the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.

All links retrieved February 6, 2009.

Undergraduate schools

Graduate schools

Research Centers

Moorland-Spingarn Research Center

The Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC) is recognized as one of the world's largest and most comprehensive repositories for the documentation of the history and culture of people of African descent in Africa, the Americas, and other parts of the world. As one of Howard University's major research facilities, the MSRC collects, preserves, and makes available for research a wide range of resources chronicling the Black experience.

In 1914, Jesse E. Moorland gifted his collection of some 3,000 books, pamphlets, and other historical items to the University

because it is the one place in America where the largest and best library on this subject [of the Negro and slavery] should be constructively established. It is also the place where our young people who have the scholarly instinct should have the privilege of a complete reference library on the subject.[23]

Howard's board of trustees created The Moorland Foundation, a Library of Negro Life, and housed it as a special collection in the new library building donated by Andrew Carnegie.

In 1946, the Moorland Foundation purchased the private library of Arthur B. Spingarn and named it the Arthur B. Spingarn Collection of Negro Authors. The Spingarn Collection, which is maintained separately from the Moorland Foundation's other collections, contains many rare editions, and an expansive coverage of Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, and Haitian writers.


Howard University offers over 120 academic programs. The Arts and Sciences school of undergraduate school offers many of the staple disciplines of Liberal Arts and Sciences, including Art, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, Psychology, Music and some specialized fields, such as African Studies, Afro-American Studies, and Military Sciences. Programs in such fields as Communications, Business, Engineering, Computer Science and Education are all divided into sub-disciplines for the undergraduate level, such as Accounting and Marketing (Business); Journalism and Television, Radio and Film (Communications); Curriculum and Instruction and Human Development & Psychoeducational Studies (Education); Chemical and Civil Engineering, (Engineering and Computer Science).

Howard offers many graduate and post-graduate level programs. The university offers programs in Law, Medicine, Divinity, Pharmacology, Social Work and Dentistry. The Graduate School offers numerous graduate and post-graduate level degrees in nearly all areas of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Business, Education and Communications that are offered in the undergraduate school.

Student life

The school offers a number of different housing options for its students, including coeducational dormitories, apartments, including "wellness" apartments that ban all forms of alcohol, drugs and cigarette smoking.[24] Blackburn Center is the main dining and student activities center located on campus.[22] Located in the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C., Howard offers students numerous cultural, political, and social opportunities.

Howard is a member of the National Collegiate Athletics Association Division I for men and women's basketball, men and women's cross country, men's football, women's lacrosse, men and women's soccer, women's softball, men and women's swimming, tennis, track and field and men's wrestling.[24] The school also offers these sports intramurally, as well as badminton, bowling and table tennis. The Pulse is the main facility for students to pursue their exercise and health related activities.

Howard has over 50 student clubs and organizations. The most numerous are academic and professional organizations, which include the American Association of Women Dentists, American Medical Association, Intellectual Property Students Association, Law Student Association, and Supply Chain Management Student Association. Arts clubs include HU Bisonette Dance Ensemble and HU Film Organization. The University hosts several civil and political groups, including Amnesty International, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Students Advocating for Youth. There are several Christian and Islamic groups on campus, as well social clubs such as the African Students Association and the Ladies of the Quad Social Club. Howard University is also home of all nine National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations. Other Greek letter organizations registered on campus include Alpha Phi Omega, Gamma Iota Sigma, Phi Mu Alpha, Sigma Alpha Iota, Delta Sigma Pi, Phi Sigma Pi, Gamma Sigma Sigma, Kappa Kappa Psi, and Tau Beta Sigma.[20]

Student publications include the Bison Yearbook and the Hilltop, the student run daily newspaper. WHBC 830 AM, the student run radio station, is operated from the school of communication and was ranked as one of the most advanced college radio stations among Historical Black Schools in 2008.[25]


Howard University has several notable traditions. Resfest is the annual athletic competition amongst the residence halls; representatives are chosen from each dorm and residency to participate in different sporting competitions.[26] The Bison Ball is another annual tradition in which individual and group achievements are recognized by University Student Association. In the spring, there is the Spring Black arts Festival, a week long celebration of dance, music, fine arts, drama, and literature from African American students and artists.[26]

Notable alumni

Patricia Bath
Mary Ann Shadd Cary
Gregory W. Meeks

Notable alumni include Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, actor Ossie Davis, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (from the School of Law), United States Senators Edward Brooke and Roland Burris (the latter from the School of Law), and many other educators, politicians, diplomats, writers, prominent international figures, and corporate executives, a few of whom are listed below:

  • Nnamdi Azikwe - First President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1960-1966).
  • Patricia Bath - Ophthalmologist, the first African-American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical invention.
  • David Blackwell - First African-American elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Claude Brown - Author.
  • Mary Ann Shadd Cary - Publisher, abolitionist and suffragist, founded the first racially-integrated school in Canada, first female newspaper editor in Canada, second woman to graduate as a lawyer in the United States, first black woman to cast a vote in a national election.
  • Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. - Brigadier General, first African-American general in the U.S. Army.
  • Roberta Flack - Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and musician.
  • Lillian Lincoln Lambert - Founder, Former President & Chief Executive Officer Centennial One, Inc.; first African-American woman to earn an MBA at Harvard Business School
  • Gregory W. Meeks- Representative for New York's sixth congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Tracie Thoms - Actress.
  • Richard Smallwood - Gospel music artist.
  • Andrew Young - first African-American United Nations Ambassador and former mayor of Atlanta, Georgia.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Office of the President," Howard University, 2008. Retrieved January 18, 2009.
  2. "Best College: Howard University," U.S. News and World Report, 2009.
  3. " Good News! A Record Number of Doctoral Degrees Awarded to African Americans," The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 2005. Retrieved January 18, 2009.
  4. "10 Best Historically Black Colleges," Black Excel, 1999. Retrieved January 18, 2009.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "A Brief History of Howard University," Howard University, 2008. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  6. "American Anti-Slavery and Civil Rights Timeline,", 2008. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  7. Rayford W. Logan, Howard University: The First Hundred Years 1867-1967 (NYU Press, 2004, ISBN 0814702635).
  8. "Alain Locke," Biography Resource Center, 2001. Retrieved January 18, 2009.
  9. "Ralph Bunche - Biography," The Nobel Foundation, 1950. Retrieved January 18, 2009.
  10. "Stokely Carmichael or Kwame Ture", 2000. Retrieved January 18, 2009.
  11. Kenneth R. Janken, "Rayford Logan: The Golden Years," Negro History Bulletin July-December, 1998. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  12. "Edward Franklin Frazier (1894-1962)," National Association of Social Workers, 2009. Retrieved January 18, 2009.
  13. "Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court Justice," Thurgood Marshall College, 2008. Retrieved January 18, 2009.
  14. "President Lyndon B. Johnson's Commencement Address at Howard University: "To Fulfill These Rights," Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Library, 2007. Retrieved January 18, 2009.
  15. Alessandra Stanley and Jacob V. Lamar, "Saying No to Lee Atwater," Time Magazine, March 20, 1989. Retrieved January 24, 2009.
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Howard University,", May 21, 2007. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  17. Dianne Hayes, "Howard faculty demand new president: faculty Senate Council says fiscal mismanagement is hurting the academic quality of the university," BNet, April 19, 2007. Retrieved January 24, 2009.
  18. Cheryl D. Fields, "Criticism of Howard University Hospital residency programs raises questions - Noteworthy news: the latest news from across the country - Statistical Data Included," BNet, June 20, 2002. Retrieved January 24, 2009.
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Dr. Sidney A. Ribeau Named 16th President of Howard University," Howard University, 2008. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Deborah Akinyele, Howard University (College Prowler, 2006, ISBN 1427402442)
  21. 21.0 21.1 "Library System," Howard University, 2008. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Campus Tours," Howard University, 2008. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  23. Jesse E. Moorland to Stephen M. Newman, December 18, 1914, Kelly Miller Papers, Box 71-1, Folder 28. Retrieved January 20, 2009.
  24. 24.0 24.1 "Howard University,", 2009. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  25. "WHBC 30th Anniversary Reunion," Howard University, 2008. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  26. 26.0 26.1 "Howard University: Traditions,", 2009. Retrieved January 19, 2009.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Akinyele, Deborah. Howard University. College Prowler, 2006. ISBN 1427402442
  • Carpenter, John. Sword and Olive Branch: Oliver Otis Howard. Fordham University Press, 1999. ISBN 0823219887
  • Logan, Rayford W. Howard University: The First Hundred Years 1867-1967. NYU Press, 2004. ISBN 0814702635
  • Robinson, Harry G. The Long Walk: The Placemaking Legacy of Howard University. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University, 1996. ISBN 0965209113
  • Stanley, Alessandra, and Jacob V. Lamar "Saying No to Lee Atwater," Time Magazine, March 20, 1989. Retrieved January 24, 2009.

External links

All links retrieved January 15, 2018.


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