Howard University Founded



On May 1, 1867, Howard University was established in Washington. It became the premier Black University in America.

Howard University was founded on March 2, 1867. The idea for its establishment arose out of the immediate needs of the post-Civil War period. With the abolition of slavery, there was an urgent need for educational institutions that catered to the newly freed African American population. General Oliver Otis Howard, a Civil War hero and then Commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau, played a significant role in the university's foundation and would later become its namesake.

The university was chartered by an act of Congress, with its primary mission being the education of black men and women in various disciplines, from the arts and sciences to professional fields such as medicine and law. Unlike many other institutions of the time, Howard University was nonsectarian and open to all races, genders, and creeds.

Early Years: From its inception, Howard University was envisioned as a comprehensive institution. The university started its operations with a mere six students, but it rapidly expanded. By the close of the 19th century, the university offered a wide range of programs, including a four-year liberal arts undergraduate program and graduate programs in various fields.

In the university's early days, its law and medical schools were especially noteworthy. Howard’s law school, founded in 1869, was among the first to admit African American students, and it played a pivotal role in challenging segregation and racial injustice. Some of its graduates played influential roles in landmark cases like Brown v. Board of Education, which would lead to the desegregation of public schools.

Similarly, the medical school, established in 1868, addressed the dire need for medical professionals in African American communities. The Freedmen's Hospital, which was associated with the university, served as the primary teaching hospital. This association offered students hands-on experience, ensuring that they were prepared to serve communities that were often neglected by mainstream medical practitioners.

As the years progressed, Howard began to attract a cadre of black intellectuals and professionals, both as students and faculty. Many of these individuals would play significant roles in the fight for civil rights and equality in the 20th century. The university soon became a hub for intellectual thought, activism, and cultural affirmation, laying the foundation for its reputation as "The Mecca" for black intellectual and cultural life.