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This Month in Black History: Spelman College


On April 11, 1881, Spelman College was founded. It is a Historically Black college, as well as a four year, liberal arts, women’s college. It was first called the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary which was held in the basement of Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta by two teachers named Harriet E. Giles, and Sophia B. Packard. The name would eventually change to Spelman College in 1927. The two women started the school with 11 students, and $100. Their vision was to be a liberal arts institution, with a large selection of course offerings, and they enrolled 80 students by the end of their first term.

Spelman College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and offers bachelor degrees in more than 20 areas of study including the arts, anthropology, computer science, child development, economics, environmental science, political science, psychology, religion, and sociology. The college has grown to 32 acres and 26 buildings which includes the Center for Leadership and Civic Management, Marian Wright Edelman Center, Merck Center for Science Excellence, and MacVicar Health Center. Also, the Spelman College Museum of Fine Arts, housed in the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Academic Center, is an inspiring cultural institution. The Women’s Research and Resource Center, and a media complex also are at the academic center.

In April 1929, Spelman college joined an affiliation with the Atlanta University Center Consortium, Inc. The Atlanta University Center Consortium, Inc., consists of Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Morehouse School of Medicine. The consortium allows for students to cross-register at the other institutions in order to obtain a broader experience across a number of degree programs.

Heading into the 1960s era, the Spelman College students became involved in civil rights protests going on in Atlanta. In 1962, the first Spelman students were arrested for participating in sit-ins in the Atlanta community. This era in Spelmans history birthed two notable African-American Civil Rights Activist women; Alice Walker and Marian Edelman Wright. Alice Walker is most know for her acclaimed novel, The Color Purple; and Marian Edelman Wright is most known for her worldwide organization that advocates for children’s rights, the Children’s Defense Fund. Both First Lady Michelle Obama and Business Mogul Oprah Winfrey have given commencement speeches at the university.

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