BlackFacts Details

Howard University (1867– )

Howard University has been labeled “the capstone of Negro education,” because of its central role in the African American educational experience.  Among historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) Howard has produced the greatest number of graduates with advanced degrees.  Originally conceived as a theological school in 1866, Howard University was chartered as a university by an act of the United States Congress in 1867.  It is the only HBCU to hold that distinction.  Named after Oliver Otis Howard, a Civil War general who became commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the institution was from its inception committed to graduate and professional education in sharp contrast to most other black postsecondary institutions of that era.

As an example of this, Howard established the first black law school in the nation only two years after its founding and in 1872, Charlotte Ray, a white student, was one of its first graduates.  Ray was the first woman graduate from the school and the first woman admitted to the District of Columbia Bar.  From its founding down to 1926 Howard’s presidents were all white, but in that year, Stanley Durkee was replaced by Mordecai Wyatt Johnson.

Howard Universitys faculty has provided significant leadership in African America. Its ranks have included Kelly Miller, the sociologist and philosopher, Carter G. Woodson, the historian who originated Black History Month, Alain Locke, the first black Rhodes Scholar and in the 1920s, promoter of the Harlem Renaissance, and Ralph Bunche, the political scientist who would later work for the United Nations and in 1948 win a Nobel Peace Prize for brokering a peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.  In 1929 President Johnson appointed Charles Hamilton Houston as vice dean of the Law School.  Under his leadership, Howard Law became the major center in the U.S. for civil rights law, training a generation of black lawyers dedicated to that goal including most notably Thurgood Marshall who argued the Brown v. Board decision which