To complete the trifecta of HBCUs in the Atlanta University Center Consortium (including Spelman, Morehouse), Atlanta University was founded in 1865 by the American Missionary Association.

The other half of the institution, Clark College, was founded in 1869. Clark was named after Bishop Davis W. Clark, who was the first president of the Freedmen’s Aid Society. Finally, on July 1, 1988, the two schools joined forces to build Clark Atlanta University, combining one college’s graduate degree curriculum with the other’s liberal arts programs.

After the merger, the Atlanta University Center emerged, with Spelman and Morehouse College, and Morris Brown College, and the Interdenominational Theological Center joining the affiliation later.

In 1904, Atlanta University graduate James Weldon Johnson wrote what is called the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” That same year, he received an honorary Masters degree. Other notable alumni include activist Ralph David Abernathy, W.E.B. Dubois, Whitney Young, Jr. and Henry O. Tanner serving as faculty. It was through Professor Dubois that the university became affiliated with the NAACP.

Since its joint venture of education, Clark Atlanta University has had three presidents.

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