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Howard University was founded in 1866 by missionaries as a training facility for black preachers. It was decided that the school would be named after Civil war hero General Oliver O. Howard,  a white man, who was serving as the Commissioner of the Freedman’s Bureau. The bureau, which was founded in 1865, was a U.S. government agency that aided freed blacks.

Within a year, the school’s focus had expanded to include liberal arts and medical training.

On May 1, 1867, Howard University held classes with five white female students,  the daughters of the school’s founders. Built on three acres, Howard University would see to the education of 150,000 freed slaves by 1872. General Oliver Howard served as president from 1869 to 1872.

It was not until 1926 that Howard University welcomed its first black president, Dr. Mordecai Wyatt Johnson. Though the school lacked accreditation at that time, it had expanded to include  eight schools and colleges. Johnson served as president for 34 years. By the time he retired, Howard University had 6,000 students, a budget of $8 million dollars, and more than doubled the number of buildings and facilities.

To date, Howard University is one of only 48 U.S. private, doctoral/research-extensive universities and produces more on-campus African American Ph.D.s than any other university in the world.

On January 13, 1913, 22 African American female students at Howard University set out to build Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, a private, non-profit and public service organization whose purpose is to provide services and programs to advance the well being of humankind. The women used, (and continue to use today), their collective strength to promote academic excellence and to provide assistance to those in need. Therefore, Howard University is an integral part of the organization’s history.

Notable Alumni of Howard University include:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall

The first African-American governor L. Douglas Wilder

Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison

Savage Holdings LLC CEO and Howard Board of Trustees Chairman Frank Savage

Emmy Award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad

Oopera singer Jessye Norman

Actress, producer and director Debbie Allen

The first African-American president of the American College of Surgeons, Dr. LaSalle Leffall, Jr.

Attorney, civil rights leader and Wall St. executive Vernon Jordan

Former mayor and United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young

The first female mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin

Actress Taraji P. Henson

Noted author Zora Neale Hurston

Singer Roberta Flack

TV Personality Ananda Lewis

Actress Wendy Raquel Robinson

TV Personality LaLa Anthony

The list continues.

Celebs Representing HBCUs
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5 thoughts on “Little Known Black History Fact: Howard University

  1. L Matthews on said:

    This first sentence is factually inaccurate…Howard University was not founded as a missionary school. It always a liberal arts university.

  2. Not only was Alpha Kappa Alpha the first greek letter organization for black women, it was the first sorority founded at Howard University in January, 1908.

    The reporter obviously did not do her homework and no one fact-checked the article.

  3. That’s interesting that Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. was the only greek organization listed, when in fact the below were also founded there:

    Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. 1906
    Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. 1908
    Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. 1911
    Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. 1914
    Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. 1920

    I understand that the history of the great Howard University is vast. However, if you mention one greek organization, you should list them all.

  4. Paula Mitchell on said:

    Okay. We need to do better with the facts. Why was the founding of the Delta Sigma Theta listed here when Alpha Kappa Alpha was founded on campus in 1908. Furthermore, Alpha Phi Alpha was also founded before the Deltas. Last paragraph adds nothing to this little known fact when Howard has so many more notable facts. Could have mentioned Dr. Charles Drew, Thurgood Marshall’s contribution plus numerous others in the main body instead of DST.

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