Publication Date

December 1, 2007

Perspectives Section

AHA Annual Meeting

Howard University

Howard University, located in the Northwest quadrant of the city, has long been recognized as one of the nation’s premier historically black colleges and universities. The school, founded in 1867, was first called the Howard Normal and Theological Institute for the Education of Teachers and Preachers. Soon incorporated and chartered as Howard University, the institution was named after General Oliver Otis Howard, commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau and one of the founders of the school. At a time when discrimination limited educational opportunities for minorities, Howard University produced more than 10 percent of the nation’s black doctors, lawyers, business leaders, politicians, social workers, engineers, artists, musicians, and other professionals. Illustrious Howard graduates include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Ralph Bunche, Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Toni Morrison, former National Urban League President Vernon Jordan, and opera soprano Jessye Norman. Howard graduates are also well represented among international leaders in Africa and the African diaspora.

The Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, in Howard’s Founders Library, 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. For over 90 years the research center has collected and preserved resources chronicling the black experience. Its collections include 17,000 feet of manuscript and archival collections as well as more than 175,000 bound volumes and tens of thousands of journals, periodicals, and newspapers. Recent acquisitions include the papers of Baker’s Dozen (1944–62), a civic organization combating juvenile delinquency in Northwest Washington, D.C.; the papers of visual artist, educator, scholar, and mentor Lois Mailou Jones Pierre-Noèl (1905–98); and those of missionary, educator, civil rights activist, and sociologist Max Yergan (1892–1975). Other popular collections include the papers of Alain Locke, the Ralph J. Bunche Collection of oral histories of the civil rights movement, the Amiri Baraka papers, and the Anna Julia Cooper papers. The collection continues to expand our collective understanding of race, gender, class, and power. For information 202-806-7240; Library Division 202-806-4237; University Archives 202-806-7498; Manuscript Division 202-806-7480. Open Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–1 p.m. and 2–4:30 p.m. By appointment.

The Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, located on the main campus of Howard University, has historically served as a focal point for cultural and religious activities for faculty, staff, students, and the surrounding community. This historic structure, built in 1894, has provided a pulpit for figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune, W.E.B. DuBois, John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, William Jefferson Clinton, Haile Selassie I, and Desmond Tutu. Under the stewardship of Bernard L. Richardson, dean of the chapel, the number of worshippers has grown significantly. Nondenominational Sunday services begin at 11:00 a.m.; visitors are welcome. See for details.

To reach Howard by public transportation take Metro’s Green Line to the Shaw/Howard University station.

The University of the District of Columbia (UDC)

UDC is, at once, very old and very new. Its first incarnation was in 1851 when Myrtilla Miner founded Miner Normal School to educate black women as teachers. In 1879, the school became a part of the public school system. In 1929, by an act of Congress, both Miner Normal School and Wilson Normal School (a school for white women established in 1873) were incorporated as four-year teachers’ colleges, becoming the only institutions of public higher education in the city. They remained segregated institutions until the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, after which the two schools merged to become the District of Columbia Teachers College. District residents seeking access to a liberal arts education and advanced technical training lobbied for comprehensive public higher education for the District, convincing President John F. Kennedy to appoint the 1963 Chase Commission to study the city’s higher education needs. The commission’s report led to the Public Education Act (Public Law 89-791) of 1966, which aimed to serve the community and address urban problems by establishing two institutions: Federal City College, whose Board of Higher Education was appointed by the mayor of the District of Columbia, and Washington Technical Institute, which was governed by a Board of Vocational Education appointed by the President of the United States. In 1969, the District of Columbia Teachers College, the city’s oldest teacher training institution, was placed under the jurisdiction of the Board of Higher Education. In 1977, the Board of Trustees consolidated the District’s institutions of higher education into the University of the District of Columbia. The university currently offers over 75 undergraduate and graduate academic degree programs in liberal arts, business, engineering, and law. The university’s public service arm, the Division of Community Outreach and Extension Services, offers a variety of practical, nonacademic educational programs and training to the citizens of the District of Columbia.

To reach the university by public transportation take Metro’s Red Line to the VanNess/UDC station.

Gallaudet University

Located on Florida Avenue in the Northeast quadrant of Washington, Gallaudet is the world’s only institution of higher education for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. It shares the distinction, along with Howard University, of being one of just two federally funded institutions of higher learning in the country. In 1857, Amos Kendall, a former cabinet member in the administration of President Andrew Jackson, donated land to establish the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind, informally known as Kendall School. In 1864, President Lincoln, at the urging of Edward Gallaudet and Amos Kendall, signed a bill to authorize the school to grant college degrees. The degree-granting institution became known as the National College for the Deaf and Dumb, later the National Deaf-Mute College (blind students were educated in Maryland after 1865). In 1905, Congress enacted legislation barring African American deaf students from Washington, D.C., from the institution, mandating that they be sent to the Maryland School for the Colored Deaf in Baltimore. The exclusion of African American students from Kendall School remained in effect until the 1952 Miller v. D.C. Board of Education case mandated that the District’s deaf African American students attend school in the city where they lived. A plaque on campus near the Kellogg Meeting Center commemorates the historic case, listing the names of the parents and guardians of District children who acted as plaintiffs in the case, the students who returned to Gallaudet as a result of the ruling, and the African American teachers hired to teach them. In 1954, an act of Congress renamed the institution Gallaudet College after Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, founder of the first school for deaf students in the United States.

Gallaudet University can be reached by Metro on the Red Line at the Florida Avenue/Gallaudet station.

Sandra Jowers-Barber is assistant professor of history at the University of the District of Columbia. Jeanne Maddox Toungara is associate professor of history at Howard University. They are both members of the Local Arrangements Committee.