These pictures of students and teachers at Howard University in Washington, D.C. were taken for LIFE magazine by Alfred Eisenstaedt in 1946.
Two years before Eisenstaedt took the pictures, the university’s administration had asked its students to cease a campaign of protests and sit-ins against Washington diners and stores that refused to serve them.
Howard University (Howard or simply HU) is a private federally chartered historically black research university in Washington, D.C. It is classified among “R2: Doctoral Universities – High research activity” and accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Tracing its history to 1867, from its outset Howard has been nonsectarian and open to people of all sexes and races. It offers undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees in more than 120 programs, more than any other historically black college and university (HBCU) in the nation.
Shortly after the end of the American Civil War, members of the First Congregational Society of Washington considered establishing a theological seminary for the education of black clergymen. Within a few weeks, the project expanded to include a provision for establishing a university. Within two years, the university consisted of the colleges of liberal arts and medicine. The new institution was named for General Oliver Otis Howard, a Civil War hero who was both the founder of the university and, at the time, commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau. Howard later served as president of the university from 1869 to 1874.
The U.S. Congress chartered Howard on March 2, 1867 and much of its early funding came from endowment, private benefaction and tuition. (In the 20th and 21st centuries, an annual congressional appropriation, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, funds Howard University and Howard University Hospital). In its first five years of operation, Howard University educated over 150,000 freed slaves.
Many improvements were made on campus. Howard Hall was renovated and made a dormitory for women.
In 1912, during his historic journey to the west, Bahá’í Faith leader ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá addressed an integrated gathering in Rankin Chapel at Howard University in which he declared the oneness of all people, the elimitation of racial prejudice and segregation and the urgent need for race amity.
From 1926 to 1960, Dr. Mordecai Wyatt Johnson, Sr., was Howard University’s first African-American president.
The Great Depression years of the 1930s brought hardship to campus. Despite appeals from Eleanor Roosevelt, Howard saw its budget cut below Hoover administration levels during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In the 1930s, Howard University still had segregated student housing.
Howard University played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement on a number of occasions. The Bahá’í and philosopher Alain Locke, chair of the Department of Philosophy and first African American Rhodes Scholar, authored The New Negro, which helped to usher in the Harlem Renaissance. Ralph Bunche, the first Nobel Peace Prize winner of African descent, served as chair of the Department of Political Science. Beginning in 1942, Howard University students pioneered the “stool-sitting” technique of occupying stools at a local cafeteria which denied service to African Americans, blocking other customers waiting for service. This tactic was to play a prominent role in the later Civil Rights Movement. By January 1943, students had begun to organize regular sit-ins and pickets around Washington, D.C. at cigar stores and cafeterias which refused to serve them because of their race. These protests continued until the fall of 1944.
Stokely Carmichael, also known as Kwame Toure, a student in the Department of Philosophy and the Howard University School of Divinity, coined the term “Black Power” and worked in Lowndes County, Alabama as a voting rights activist. Historian Rayford Logan served as chair of the Department of History. E. Franklin Frazier served as chair of the Department of Sociology. Sterling Allen Brown served as chair of the Department of English.
Presidents of Howard University
1867 Charles B. Boynton
1867–1869 Byron Sunderland
1869–1874 Oliver Otis Howard
1875–1876 Edward P. Smith
1877–1889 William W. Patton
1890–1903 Jeremiah Rankin
1903–1906 John Gordon
1906–1912 Wilbur P. Thirkield
1912–1918 Stephen M. Newman
1918–1926 J. Stanley Durkee
1926–1960 Mordecai Wyatt Johnson
1960–1969 James Nabrit Jr.
1969–1989 James E. Cheek
1990–1994 Franklyn Jenifer
1995–2008 H. Patrick Swygert
2008–2013 Sidney A. Ribeau
2013–present Wayne A. I. Frederick
The first sitting president to speak at Howard was Calvin Coolidge in 1924. His graduation speech was entitled, “The Progress of a People”, and highlighted the accomplishments to date of African-Americans since the Civil War. His concluding thought was, “We can not go out from this place and occasion without refreshment of faith and renewal of confidence that in every exigency our Negro fellow citizens will render the best and fullest measure of service whereof they are capable.”
The Lower Quadrangle behind Founders Library; also known as “The Valley”
In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered a speech to the graduating class at Howard, where he outlined his plans for civil rights legislation and endorsed aggressive affirmative action to combat the effects of years of segregation of blacks from the nation’s economic opportunities. At the time, the voting rights bill was still pending in the House of Representatives.
In 1975 the historic Freedman’s Hospital closed after 112 years of use as Howard University College of Medicine’s primary teaching hospital. Howard University Hospital opened that same year and continues to be used as HUCM’s primary teaching hospital, with service to the surrounding community.
Also in 1975, Jeanne Sinkford became the first female dean of any American dental school when she was appointed as the dean of Howard University’s school of dentistry.
In 1989, Howard gained national attention when students rose up in protest against the appointment of then-Republican National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater as a new member of the university’s board of trustees. Student activists disrupted Howard’s 122nd-anniversary celebrations, and eventually occupied the university’s administration building. Within days, both Atwater and Howard’s President, James E. Cheek, resigned.
In April 2007, the head of the faculty senate called for the ouster of Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert, saying the school was in a state of crisis, and it was time to end “an intolerable condition of incompetence and dysfunction at the highest level.” This came on the heels of several criticisms of Howard University and its management. The following month, Swygert announced he would retire in June 2008. The university announced in May 2008 that Sidney Ribeau of Bowling Green State University would succeed Swygert as president. Ribeau appointed a Presidential Commission on Academic Renewal to conduct a year-long self-evaluation that resulted in reducing or closing 20 out of 171 academic programs. For example, they proposed closing the undergraduate philosophy major and African studies major.
Six years later, in 2013, university insiders again alleged the university was in crisis. In April, the vice chairwoman of the university’s board of trustees wrote a letter to her colleagues harshly criticizing the university’s president and calling for a vote of no confidence; her letter was subsequently obtained by the media where it drew national headline. Two months later, the university’s Council of Deans alleged “fiscal mismanagement is doing irreparable harm,” blaming the university’s senior vice president for administration, chief financial officer and treasurer and asking for his dismissal. In October, the faculty voted no confidence in the university’s board of trustees executive committee, two weeks after university president Sidney A. Ribeau announced he would retire at the end of the year. On October 1, the Board of Trustees named Wayne A. I. Frederick Interim President. In July 2014 Howard’s Board of Trustees named Frederick as the school’s 17th president.
In May 2016, President Barack Obama delivered a commencement address at Howard University encouraging the graduates to become advocates for racial change and to prepare for future challenges.
In 2018, nearly 1,000 students held a sit-in demanding injunction over the administration’s use of funding. After the student protest ended, faculty voted “no confidence” in the university president, chief operating officer, provost, and board of trustees. The nine-day protest ended with university officials promising to meet most of their demands.
In July 2020, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated $40 million to Howard. Her single donation is the largest in Howard’s history and one of the largest ever to an HBCU.
In May 2021, the university announced that the newly re-established college of fine arts, led by Dean Phylicia Rashad, will be named the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts for the late actor and distinguished alum.
In October 2021, a group of students protested the mold, mice, and substandard conditions in campus residential buildings in the Blackburn Takeover, demanding an improvement in the living situation and representation on the board of trustees. (Wikipedia)
Today, while Howard is open to all students, more than 90% of Howard students are African-American.