The Howard University Department of History, 1913-1973

The Howard University Department of History, 1913-1973

Michael R. Winston

This account of sixty years of the Howard University Department of History is an attempt to place its evolution within the context of several broad developments, notably the professionalization of historical study as an academic subject, the history of Howard University, and the growth of racial self-consciousness in response to American patterns of race relations.

Despite great advances in our understanding of the historical experience of Negroes in the United States, too little known of the internal development of black institutions. This study is an attempt to close the gap in the general knowledge of one segment of the institutional history of black higher education. It also attempts to provide an analysis of the social and intellectual developments which affected the emergence of the largest and most significant group of Negro historians in the United States. The biographical sketches hopefully deepen our understanding of the personal and professional milieux in which they developed….

Historical Study at Howard University: The Era of the Classical Curriculum, 1867-1905

The study of history as a university subject was a relatively late development in the evolution of American higher education. There were, for example, only about twenty full-time teachers of history in more than four hundred colleges and universities in the United States in 1884. In the closing decades of the nineteenth century the, there was a rapid increase in the number of university historians because of the progressive liberalization of the old classic curriculum to include history as well as, the newly emerging social sciences, which require specially trained teachers.(1) In addition, the modernization of American universities into centers of research and graduate training along the lines of German universities, which began with the founding of The John Hopkins University in 1876, stimulated a trend for the professionalization of historical study. Moreover, the founding of the American Historical Association in 1884 was a decisive step in the transformation of historical writing from a preserve of gifted and often wealthy amateurs into discipline and profession.(2)

The emergence of history as a major academic enterprise at Howard University roughly parallels the pattern established at other American universities, but with several vital points of difference which require some brief explanation.

When Howard was founded in 1867, in the wake of a brutal civil war in the midst of the bitter Reconstruction controversy about the future status of the Freedmen in American society, a key issue was the intellectual capacity of Blacks. It was of course not a new issue. During the South’s counteroffensive against the abolitionists, John Calhoun had declared in the 1830s that “If a Negro could be found who could parse Greek or explain Euclid, I should be constrained to think that he has human possibilities.”(3) Opposition to full citizenship and participation in politics for Negroes during Reconstruction and after was often based on assumptions like Calhoun’s. Thus, the study of classics had a significance for Negroes and the founders of Negro colleges and universities that went far beyond the confines of the discussions of educational theory in the second half of the nineteenth century in the United States.(4)

For the founders of Howard University, among them men who had been long time abolitionists and Union officers in the war, the surest confirmation of the radical belief in the equal potential of Blacks was to provide them, at once and without compromise, the same education offered in the New England colleges of which they were alumni. The “classical curriculum” of Latin, Greek and mathematics was powerfully associated in the minds of teachers and students with highest aspirations of the race, and the cultural means by which a leadership group was to win for Blacks a secure place in “American civilization.” Strenuous efforts were made therefore, to resist attempts to liberalize the college curriculum at Howard during the years when repeated attacks were made on the “radical” experiment of offering classical education to Negroes. The effort was all the stronger because Howard with its college and professional schools in theology, law and medicine had rapidly become a national symbol of the “progress of the race” since emancipation.(5) Frederick Douglass, for example wrote in the New National Era for October 20, 1870 that in the city of Washington which had known Negroes “only as property,” there had arisen an institution “vieing in attractiveness and elegance, with those of the most advanced civilization, devoted to the classical education of a people which a few years ago, the phrenologists, archeologists and ethnologists of the country told us were wholly incapable of acquiring even a knowledge of the English language.” At Howard, he continued, “there are young colored gentlemen not only studying the higher mathematics, theology, Greek, Latin and Hebrew, and the modern languages–but law and medicine. All this is going on here in Washington, and going on without noise or alarm. Looking through the classrooms, walking through the ample grounds, listening to the cheerful Voices, and beholding the bright faces of girls and boys as they pass to and fro, you might be led to think that they were separated from slavery by a dozen centuries, and that they had never known other than culture and refinement.”

As a consequence of this general association of the classics with true “manhood freedom” the classical curriculum was retained at Howard longer than at many American universities, and there was a corresponding delay in the development of the social sciences as disciplines. As one of the alumni of that period, W.V. Tunnell (A.B. 1884) would recall fifty years later: “In my college period the curriculum was Greek, Latin, and Math. At the end of each year Ex in all Math; at the end of 2 years Ex in all Greek and Latin. The old curriculum was `shackled’ to the ideals of the Renaissance. Its pedagogy concerned itself with discipline-intellectual, moral, and spiritual resulting in Culture and Character rather than in Knowledge for its own sake. The day of exclusive specialization lay ahead. The ideology was that of Oxford, Cambridge and the New England group rather than that of Germany or the Continent.(6)

It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that history as a part of liberal culture was not taught prior to the turn of the century. In the earliest years, there was a requirement that students master some areas of history before entering the College Department. In addition to presenting proof of competence in Latin and Greek grammar, and the works of Caesar, Cicero, Virgil, Sallust, Xenophon and Homer, candidates for admission in 1868 were required to know Smith’s Smaller History of Greece and Smith’s History of Rome. Once admitted, students generally learned history indirectly as a part of their classical studies, especially the work of Tacitus and Xenophon. In 1876 The Persian Wars of Herodotus, and The History of the Peloponnesian War of Thucydides were added to the Freshman year studies in Greek in the College Department.(7) The one concession to modern history was a discussion of the Constitution of the United States as part of the course, “Political Philosophy” offered in the third Term of Senior Year.(8) On the whole, there can be little doubt that until the late 1880s, history was regarded at Howard as less than a “serious” subject for advanced study. Almost all of the history taught was in the Preparatory Department and in the Normal Department. Even after the establishment of a professorship exclusively for history in 1906, the Teachers College for a number of years offered more courses in history, and hired more teachers of the subject than the College of Arts and Sciences.(9)

By the 1890s there was a gradual liberalization of the classical curriculum at Howard which permitted the addition of “modern” subjects. During this period, professors in the newer branches of the curriculum were responsible for several subjects, while Latin, Greek, and Mathematics retained their primacy under the direction of professors whose sole responsibility was a single subject. For this reason the earliest teachers of the “modern” subjects were the progenitors of several departments of the twentieth century, English, History, and Political Science. The opening wedge of the modern curriculum was English, which very gradually differentiated into History and Political Science. The men who taught during this period and laid the foundations for later expansion are now regrettably almost totally forgotten. They were primarily teachers, and consistent with their era in the history of American higher education, devoted to the welfare and interest of their local institution more than, to what would, later emerge as “professional” loyalty. They were essentially local men whose greatest contributions was their excellence as college teachers of high quality, in an era when this was more highly prized than professional scholarship. None was a “professional” historian in the usage of the twentieth century; the “new” men would begin their ascendancy in the period of the First World War with the appointment of Charles H. Wesley. Two of the three history teachers in this period, Cook and Tunnell, played an important rote in the intellectual life of Negroes in the crucial years bracketed by the end of Reconstruction and the First World War, and made significant contributions to the life of Howard University.

History was first taught: as a separate subject the Reverend Charles H.A. Bulkley, D.D. an early member of the American Historical Association who was appointed Librarian and Professor of English Literature, Rhetoric and Logic in 1882. Little is known about Professor Bulkley, who in addition to his duties at Howard was an active Presbyterian minister, serving as Pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church. He seems to have been highly regarded by his contemporaries. The Rev. Francis J. Grimke made a revealing judgement about him in an address on November 19, 1916. “Dr. Bulkley” he said, “was very cultivated man, and was, to a surprising degree, free from all race prejudice. He was as much so as any white man I have ever met…. He was well thought of by everyone.” In 1889, the year the American Historical Association was granted a charter by Congress, Bulkley’s title was changed to Professor of English Literature, History, Rhetoric, Logic and Elocution. History was taught during the later years of his tenure, 1882-1891, as a companion to English literature, so that, in the words of the Catalogue of 1889, “the underlying principles and dominant forces of mental and national development [were] brought into view.”(10) in these years, history was always listed with the English literature courses. It is doubtful that history instruction at that time was any more than “background” study for literature students. The Reverend William Victor Tunnell was appointed Professor of English, Literature, History, Rhetoric, Logic and Elocution in 1891, but served in this capacity for only one year. He gave up his professorship in the College Department to become full-time Warden of King Hall, a cooperative Divinity School adjacent to the Howard University campus established in 1889 by the Protestant Episcopal Church for training of its colored clergy. Tunnell served on the Howard Board of Trustees from 1889 to 1908, and was reappointed to the faculty as Professor of History in the College of Arts and Sciences in 1906….(11)

The Foundation Period, 1911-1920

William V. Tunnell was an impressive teacher who punctuated his lectures in English and United States History with vivid descriptions and anecdotes drawn from a wide range of sources. Although personally austere he was a spell-binding, imaginative teacher of history of the “old school.” The presentation of dramatic action, of epic struggles was more important to him than the state of scholarship on a particular question.(12) Men of this stamp, eloquent and widely read, absorbed in the “spirit of the age” of their courses, gradually went out of academic fashion as professionally trained men began to emerge from the new graduate schools of sixty years ago. Despite the “old fashioned” character of Professor Tunnell’s teaching, it is important to note that he offered the first seminar in history at Howard, and helped to stimulate an interest in Negro history. In 1911 Tunnell added “History IV” to the curriculum, a seminar called “History of the Reconstruction Period.” The seminar had been in gestation for some time. As a means of arousing student interest in the new course, Tunnell had established a lecture series in the Spring of 1911 and among those invited to speak was the well known pioneer Negro historian, John W. Cromwell (1846-1927), a Secretary of the American Negro Academy, who lectured in Rankin Chapel on Saturday, March 18, 1911. The subject of Cromwell’s was “Some Rich but Unworked Veins” of Negro history. He discussed the Negro in the military, the history of Negro Secret societies, and the Negro church. When he surveyed the possibilities for study of the Civil War and Reconstruction he said that since Negro students and historians were still “surrounded with survivors” they should collect documentary materials and record reminiscences because they would “be lost in ten or twenty years.(13)

In the Fall semester following the lecture series, Tunnell offered what was the first advanced course in history at Howard (History I, II and III were all introductory survey courses). In view of the later development of the department and its research emphases, the fact that the first advanced work was in Reconstruction history is especially significant, and since it is unlikely that many persons will examine the first announcement of the course in situ, it may be useful to reproduce part of it here:

The political, social, economic and sectional issues and influences are briefly reviewed. Amendments XIII, XIV, XV to the Constitution, together with the various Reconstruction Acts of Congress are critically studied, also the incidents in the several. States The aim is to give a clear conception of the birth of the Nation and to ascertain the readjusted rights, liberties, immunities, obligations and duties of the emancipated and enfranchised race. Being essentially a course of patient, critical investigation of documents and monographs, the seminar method will be followed.(14)

Professor Tunnell’s determination to conduct a “patient, critical investigation of documents and monographs” is particularly understandable when the early historiography of Reconstruction is recalled. During Tunnell’s tenure at Howard, American historians, as Richard Hofstadter has recently summarized it, responded to “the irenical movement of the times, [and] tended to follow what might be called the Rhodes-Burgess compromise, which required the South to concede the immorality and retrograde nature of slavery and the unconstitutionality and unrighteous tendency of secession, while the North was to admit the necessity of white supremacy and white autonomy in the South and grant the wrong-headedness of radical Reconstruction.”(15) The “compromise” canonized not only a view of Reconstruction, but also the burgeoning propaganda that Blacks were intrinsically inferior and had no “capacity for civilization….”

The introduction of a seminar on Reconstruction at Howard was part of an intensifying movement in the thirty years prior to the First World War for the development of Negro history. While some abolitionists, especially Black abolitionists, had used history as part of the intellectual arsenal for attacking slavery, the efforts of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were characterized by greater awareness of the intrinsic valve of developing the means for sound history of the race. The earlier work was often less critical, more dependent on Biblical sources and sometimes little more than compendia of extracts. It did serve notice very early, however, that despite white claims to the contrary, the black man was not without an “historical past.” Examples of this earlier work were James W.C. Pennington (1809-1870) A Text book of the Origin and History, etc. etc. of the Colored People (1841); Robert Benjamin Lewis, Light and Truth: Containing the Universal History of the Colored and Indian Race, from the Creation of the World to the Present Time (1844); James Theodore Holly (1829-1911), A Vindication of the Capacity of the Negro Race for Self-Government, and Civilized Progress, as Demonstrated by Historical Events of the Haitian Revolution: and the Subsequent Acts of That People since Their National Independence (1855); William Cooper Nell(1816-1874), The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution (1855) and William Wells Brown (1814-1884), The Black Man: His Antecedents, His Genius, and His Achievements (1863), The Negro in the American Rebellion: His Heroism and His Fidelity(1867), and The Rising Son: or, the Antecedents and Advancement of the Colored Race (1874).(16)

The great colored Puerto- Rican bibliophile, Arthur A. Schomburg, later referred to the collections of “vindicating evidences of individual achievement” as being “on the whole pathetically over-corrective, ridiculously over-laudatory … apologetics turned into biography.” Observing that “a true historical sense develops slowly and with difficulty,” he believed that a transition was taking place so that “even if for the ultimate purpose of group justification, history has become less a matter of argument and more a matter of record.”(17) Recognizing the importance of universities in this effort, Schomburg wrote an essay in 1913 entitled Racial Integrity: A Plea for the Establishment of a Chair of Negro History in Our Schools and Colleges. A vital element in the transition from the “vindication school” to modern scholarly Negro history was the formation of three historical organizations, the American Negro Historical Society of Philadelphia (1897), the Negro Society for Historical Research (1912) and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (1915). Other organizations that should also be mentioned, even though less specialized in encouraging more accurate historical work, were the Bethel Literary and Historical Association, Washington, D.C. (1881) and the American Negro Academy, Washington, D.C. (1897).(18)

At Howard there was a growing awareness among some of the students and faculty of the need for the University to make a commitment to the systematic, scholarly study of the Negro. Among the students there was a definite growth of sensitivity to the value of Negro history. On April 21, 1911, for example Beta Chapter Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity presented Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois in a lecture in Rankin Chapel entitled “Some Hidden Facts in African History.” According to the student newspaper, Du Bois emphasized repeatedly that “there are facts of Negro history unknown to most of us and destined to remain so unless unearthed and published by historians of our own race.”(19)

Some evidence of the burgeoning interest in the Negro was the increase in the number of university-sponsored lectures on this subject. In 1913, in addition to lectures by Jane Addams of Hull House and others on subjects of general social and cultural importance, there were lectures by Dr. Carter G. Woodson of the M Street High School (“Educating the Ante-Bellum Negro”), Archibald H. Grimke, President of the Washington Branch of the NAACP (“The Sex Question and Race Segregation”), Professor George Edmund Haynes of Fisk University (“The Problem of the City Negro”)and Dr. Joseph A. Hill of the United States Bureau of the Census (“The Negro as a Factor in American Life”)(20) The faculty leader of this effort was Professor Kelly Miller. As early as 1901 he proposed to the Board of Trustees that the University support the studies of the American Negro Academy. The Board declined to assist the Academy and would approve no more than permission for Professor Miller to solicit funds on his own from other sources.(21)

Not discouraged by this first of several refusals to sponsor Negro studies, Miller taught a sociology course, “Problem of the Negro” and by persistent effort made one of the great coups of his career when he persuaded Dr. Jesse F. Moorland, a Howard alumnus (1891) and Trustee to donate to Howard in 1914 his sizable private library on the Negro in Africa and America. In his letter to the Board announcing his gift, Dr. Moorland said that Howard University was “the one place in America where the largest and best library on this subject should be constructively established.(22) Only months later, Miller revealed the ambitious plan of which the Moorland gift was only a part, in a long statement to the press that the University should establish a “Negro-Americana Museum and Library” which would be a center of research and instruction. Miller also hoped that the University would establish a chair for Negro studies. The Board did not act on Miller’s petition, and in 1938 when Miller revived his plan for a Negro Museum, he recalled that the Board did not want to use the term “Negro” for anything, including Dr. Moorland’s book collection because “of the squeamishness of certain members who at that time did not wish to perpetuate any racial terminology in the archives of the University.” He was assisted in this effort by Alain LeRoy Locke (1886-1954), the first American Negro Rhodes Scholar at Oxford (1907-1910). As a professor of Philosophy at Howard from 1912 to 1953, he enjoyed an international reputation as a cultural critic and major contributor to the intellectual foundations of the emergent self-confident race consciousness epitomized in the “Negro Renaissance” of the 1920s.(23)

Professor Locke petitioned the Board of Trustees a in 1915 for approval of a systematic course on race and race relations. The Board refused this request, whereupon two student organizations, the Howard Chapter of the NAACP (the first college chapter in the United States) and the Social Science Club, sponsored in 1915 and 1916 an “Extension Course of Lectures” by Locke with the general title “Race Contacts and Inter-Racial Relations: A Study in the Theory and Practice of Race.” Among the lectures outlined in the printed Syllabus and bibliography were “The Theoretical and Scientific Conceptions of Race,” “The Political and Practical Conceptions of Race,” “Phenomena and Laws of Race Contacts,” “Modern Race Creeds and Their Fallacies,” and “Racial Progress and Race Adjustment,” “Racial differences and Race Inequalities” Locke said, “[are] undeniable, [and] traceable invariably … to historical economic and social causes.” Locke was something of an academic visionary in the field of comparative race studies, observing as early as 1915 that a study of race contacts [is] the only scientific basis for comprehension of race relations.” A reflection of the success of Locke’s efforts was the fact that the entire Faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences proposed in 1916 the establishment of a course on the Negro. The Board of Trustees also rejected this petition with the comment that it was “inexpedient to establish a course in Negro problems at this time.”(24) Although the Board did not state a precise reason for its refusal, there was probably still strong feeling that courses on race would help to more firmly identify the institution as black, and there were many who held fast to the conviction that Howard ought to an institution for the education of “youth” no matter what the realities of racial segregation in the United States. (Dean Miller at one stage of his career strenuously opposed this view, arguing that while white students and faculty should always be welcome, Howard ought to be unequivocally the “National University for the Higher Education of the Colored Race”).(25) The growing student and faculty awareness of Negro history and thought, and the Board’s persistent opposition to inauguration of courses on the Negro, created a frustrating situation which was only partially relieved in later years by the pioneering leadership of Carter G. Woodson, Charles H. Wesley and others in the history department.

One result of the expansionist policies of President Thirkield was the need to hire more professors. This made the traditional system of “academic chairs” increasingly awkward and obsolete. Only one person could hold a “chair” of Greek or History, and in modern languages and social sciences, it became clear that a departmental structure would be more suitable for the larger college. Accordingly, in 1913, during the first year of President Stephen M. Newman’s administration (1912-1918), departments were organized for the first time in the College of Arts and Sciences.(26) Thus, Howard became the third university in the District of Columbia to establish a Department of History. George Washington University had established in 1895 a “School of History” with one professor, which became a Department of History in 1897. The Catholic University of America established A Department of American History in 1904. The American University’s Department of History and Political Science became a Department of History in 1926. Georgetown University did not establish a university Department of History until October 1, 1955, when all faculty offering instruction in historical subjects were combined in one department.

There was, however, no immediate growth in the case of Department of History in the College of Arts and Sciences at Howard. In 1913 history as a subject was taught in three of the university’s colleges, Arts and Sciences (Tunnell), the Commercial College (Dyson), the Teachers College (Dyson and Wesley) and in the university’s prep school, The Howard Academy (Dyson). In 1919, as part of the major reorganization of the University by President J. Stanley Durkee (1918-1926), all persons who taught history were combined in one department in the School of Liberal Arts. This had far reaching consequences. For the first time there could be a well articulated and coordinated curriculum, offering students advanced courses taught by specialists, in addition to well developed survey courses. This was the indispensable foundation for the beginning of graduate work and the encouragement of research. The concentration of historians in the College of Arts and Sciences also reversed the trend that history (as well as the other social sciences)would develop as an adjunct to the field of education. Under the leadership of Dr. Lewis Baxter Moore, Dean of the Teachers College 1899-1919, the social sciences were emphasized more in equation than in the College of Arts and Sciences, and more fully developed social sciences curriculum existed in his college. If that trend had continued it is unlikely that a history department with a strong research interest and orientation to historical profession could have developed. After the consolidation of history in the School of Liberal Arts, some teachers continued to offer instruction to education students, but on an ad hoc basis from semester to semester.

The dramatic changes made possible by the Durkee reorganization, the adoption of the quarter system, and the appointment of the department’s first faculty member with a Ph.D. in history in 1919, Carter G. Woodson, are suggested by the new history curriculum adopted in that year. From four courses in history taught by one professor, the curriculum now included twenty-two taught by four professors. Because of its significance as the foundation of later curriculum development in department, the full lists of courses is reproduced here.

History Courses at Howard University 1919 For Freshmen and Sophomores [Junior College]

History 1 Civilization of the Near East and Greece (Dyson)

History 2 Roman Civilization (Dyson)

History 3 Medieval Europe (Wesley)

History 4 Modern Europe (Wesley) (No History 5)

History 6 History of England to Henry VII (Tunnell)

History 7 History of England Since Henry VII (Tunnell) (No History 8-10)

History 11 History of the United States 1606-1789 (Woodson)

History 12 History of the United States 1789-1850 (Woodson)

History 13 History of the United States 1850-1877 (Woodson)

History 14 History of the United States from 1877 to the Present (Tunnell)

For Juniors and Seniors [School of Liberal Arts]

History 25 The Renaissance and Reformation (Wesley)

History 26 Constitutional History of England (Tunnell)

History 27 The Revolutionary Movement in Europe, 1740-1871 (Wesley)

History 28 Recent European History 1870-1919 (Wesley)

History 29 Latin America (Dyson)

History 30 The Negro in American History (Woodson)

History 31 Constitutional History of the United States, I (Woodson)

History 32 Constitutional History of the United States, II (Woodson)

History 33 Selected Topics in American History (Woodson)

History 34 America as a World Power (Tunnell)

History 35 Russia and the Far East (Wesley)

History 36 European Expansion in Africa (Wesley)

Among the more notable features of this curriculum is its scope, which reflected not only a clear intent to provide students with the understanding of the past that has been one of the ideal goals of the best modern professional history, but also a cosmopolitan outlook as reflected in the courses on Africa, Asia, and Latin America which were unusual in American universities of that day. This broad, cosmopolitan base, which was considerably expanded in later years as the faculty increased, made it possible for the slowly emerging field of Negro studies in the department to develop fully without the intellectual and cultural blemish of provincialism or racial chauvinism. Maintaining a balance between breadth of view and specialization in Afro-American history has been one of the principal intellectual and professional achievements of the department. Black history, from its very inception at Howard, was seen as an integral part of the history of humanity from ancient times to the present.

The 1919 curriculum reflected the strength that was gained by the addition of Professor Woodson, who was also Head of the Graduate Faculty and Dean of the School of Liberal Arts (1919-1920) during his brief tenure of one year, terminated because a dispute with the autocratic white president.(27) In addition to Woodson’s development of the important courses in constitutional history was the long hoped for course on the Negro in American history.

Moreover, in History 33, Selected Topics in American History, he developed the type of research seminar in which he had been trained at Harvard, a more advanced enterprise than Tunnell’s Reconstruction seminar of 1911. The announcement for History 33 stated:

This is a course of research. It will meet at 4 P.M. on Tuesdays throughout the year. The first few weeks of the quarter will be devoted to lectures on historiography and historical method while students are making investigation in their chosen fields. Each student will be required to present to the class in the form of a report the results of his investigation which must be the nucleus of an elaborate thesis showing original treatment and independent research.

The four men in the department in 1920 constitute its “founders” as a modern, professionalized organization, which grew at a slow rate in the next two decades. Professor Tunnell, who has been previously described, did not, however, remain fully a member of the department although he retained the title Professor of History until his retirement in 1928, and taught one course, “The Constitutional History of England.” The reasons are obscure for his leaving history and establishing the Department of Political Science. It may have been that he did not feel comfortable with the new, more professional approach represented by the younger men in the department, all of whom had been trained in some of the best graduate schools (Chicago, Yale, and Harvard)as historians, while his professional training was as a clergyman and lawyer. When Edward L. Parks, Professor of Economics and Political Science (1912-1919) became Professor of Economics (1919-1928), the political science area was vacant, and Tunnell’s legal training was probably deemed sufficient for the position. Whatever the reason, after 1919, Tunnell’s activity was mainly in the Political Science Department, where he taught American Government, Comparative Government, Political Theory and other courses.(28) (For one academic year, 1922-1923, there was a merger creating a department of “History, Political Science, and Government….”)

Teaching and Research in History, 1922-1942

The early 1920s were years of disillusionment and new economic and social struggles for black Americans as a whole, and Howard University reflected the changing tides of hope and pessimism that coursed through Negro life and thought. The World War, in which the United States had supposedly participated in order to make the world “safe for democracy,” had heightened expectations that if black men rallied to the colors during the crisis, improvement in the race’s condition would follow during the peace. Despite the War Department’s determination to maintain segregation in the army there was widespread and enthusiastic support of the war effort, especially by Negro college students.

Howard University students and faculty led the effort to establish an officer’s training camp so that there would be black officers as well as enlisted men in the army. George W. Cook and Kelly Miller mobilized the University for this project so effectively that when Joel Spingarn of the NAACP, who had launched the first college chapter of the organization at Howard in 1913, spoke to the student body on March 20, 1917, there was a remarkably hearty response.(29) Howard students formed an Executive Committee, later called the Central Committee of Negro College Men, with a 24-hour-a-day headquarters in Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel for war mobilization work. In 1918 a Student Army Training Camp was established at Howard, and between August 1 and September 16, four hundred and fifty-seven men from seventy colleges were trained to be army officers. Others activities included the organization of a Radio School at the university to train men for the Signal Corps.

Professor William V. Tunnell of the History Department, who was appointed University Adjutant, organized an Office of War Information which mailed hundreds of printed questionnaires to alumni so that there would be a central inventory of skilled black manpower to meet any arguments by white officials in the War Department that there was an inadequate number of trained Blacks For responsible positions in the national war effort. Tunnell’s notice to alumni said in part that the “Nation is face to face with a grave emergency.” “She needs” he continued, “the patriotic, intelligent cooperation and the expert, practical, technical, and scientific skill, coupled with the moral and spiritual energies, of every citizen. In common with the Colleges and Universities in the country your Alma Mater is taking an inventory of her resources with a view to supplying the call for patriotic national service….”(30)

Joel Spingarn, who had tried to win support for the establishment of a camp to train colored officers, gave the major credit to Howard students and alumni for establishment in June, t917 of the Colored Officers Training Camp at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. Howard supplied more candidates for Fort Des Moines, 200 (one fifth of the total), than any other institution.(31) The hopes that blossomed in the spring of 1917 were withered by the bitter realization in later months that the war would in many ways intensify rather than weaken the determination of white racists. When the war ended there was pride at Howard that great sacrifices had been made, but it was tempered by the recognition that white Americans, when not actively hostile to the independence displayed during the war, were often indifferent to, or unaware of, the Negro response to the war effort.

One indication of the black attitude about American indifference to the war sacrifices of the black community was the abundant enthusiasm displayed toward France because of the better treatment of colored troops there. On November 16, 1921 Howard conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws upon Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies and hero of the battle of the Marne in September, 1914. Although it was clear that American authorities did not plan for him to have contact with any Negroes during his visit to Washington, Marshall Foch (sic)insisted on making an official visit to Howard as a gesture on behalf of the French gratitude for the work of the University during France’s mortal crisis. Marshall Foch (sic)told a large audience gathered in front of the Carnegie Library (formerly the School of Religion Building) of his feelings about the indispensable service rendered by the Colored troops upon the soil of France.” He said that he “knew well that Howard University contributed largely in the war. I knew also that through the love and energy of this great institution of learning as manifested for France, that the soldiers activated by these impulses gloriously fought in France. Although our green sod now covers the bones of many of your beloved comrades, France shall not forget the magnificent efforts of Howard University, and the costly sacrifices made by the Colored soldiers; the shedding of their blood upon the altar of freedom shall mark an important epoch in the history of human action.”(32) The audience, which included a fully uniformed contingent of the Colored World War Veterans of the District of Columbia, representatives of every colored regiment which served in France, and the University ROTC units, sang the Marseillaise. The Reverend Francis J. Grimke, distinguished and militant Presbyterian pastor and member of Howard Board of Trustees, made the political point in his prayer of benediction that the audience gave thanks for “our great Marshal” and for “his beloved country, for France, glorious France, which today stands out among all the nations of the earth as the highest representative of the spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity.” The implied comparison with the United States, which had seen a revival of lynching, the outbreak of vicious race riots and burgeoning Ku Klux Klan — which by 1925 had grown so strong that it paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House — could not have been missed by his audience.

Out of this crucible of war had emerged a new race consciousness and a heightened militancy. While some despaired of securing justice for Negroes, others echoed the clarion call of W.E.B. Du Bois who had written in an editorial in The Crisis for May, 1919:

We return from the slavery of uniform which the world’s madness demanded us to don to the freedom of civil garb. We stand again to look America squarely in the face and call a spade a spade. We sing: This country of ours, despite all its better souls have done and dreamed, is yet a shameful land. It lynches … it disfranchises its own citizens … It encourages ignorance … It steals from us … It insults us … We return. We return fighting. We return fighting.

The growing race consciousness of the 1920s was expressed in manifold ways, from the sudden rise of Marcus Garvey as an urban mass leader to the more rarefied cultural nationalism of the “New Negro” movement in literature and the arts. At Howard two professors were especially important figures in breaking new ground intellectually for the new racial assertiveness. One was Alain LeRoy Locke of the Department of Philosophy, whose anthology The New Negro(1925) was a landmark of the “Negro Renaissance.” Dr. Locke conceived of this movement as a “spiritual and cultural focussing” made manifest by the “universal outburst of creative expression,” a vital element of the “renewed race-spirit that consciously and proudly sets itself apart.” The other professor, William L. Hansberry of the History Department was less well known, but the significance of his worked with respect to the new spirit was already recognized when he joined the history faculty in 1922. In his remarks to students and faculty at the formal opening of the university on October 4, 1922, President Durkee mentioned only one teacher, and his comments about him are especially interesting now. “The ignorant have ever declared,” he said, “that the racial group which we at Howard represent, has no past history save that of ignorance and servitude. I am most happy to inform you that we bring to Howard this year, for the winter quarter, a young man who proves himself among the foremost investigators of the history of the race and will, therefore, conduct classes in that history showing great civilizations in the long past, built up and maintained by that race of which you are the proud representatives. I trust you will so shape your courses that next quarter you will enjoy the privilege of working with Mr. Hansberry.”(33)

The president’s comments reflected the university’s gradual shift away from its earlier opposition to Negro history, so clear in the years before the World War. It was evident that the unmistakable intensification of efforts by Negro intellectuals for Howard to devote some of its resources to research on black history was gradually having effect. In December, 1921, the American Negro Academy had met for two days in Rankin Chapel, and a number of important papers were read which had immediate implications for Howard, where nine professors were members of the forty-member academy. Duse Mohammed Ali, honorary member of the ANA and editor of the African Times and Orient Review of London, lectured on “The Necessity of a Chair of Negro History in the Colleges and Universities of the World.” Professor Leo Wiener of Harvard presented a paper “The Problem of African Civilization;” Alain Locke spoke on “The Problem of Race and Culture,” and Arthur Schomburg delivered a paper, “The Negro as a Soldier in the Civilization of America.” The Academy concluded that it would be a great service to the civilized world if “young men of the colored race” would pursue “intensive courses in Philology and the modern methods of historical investigation and apply the same to the study of African history.”(34) George M. Lightfoot, Howard’s learned classical philologist, observed that the papers presented at the Academy meeting at the University indicated “without expectation … a high order of scholarly research and expression. The dominant interest of the meeting, however, undoubtedly centered around the supreme importance of having scientifically trained men of the Negro race who could, with the proper equipment for historical research, reside in Africa long enough to get at the underlying facts of the ancient African civilizations and present them, properly authorized and documented, to the modern world.”(35) The Department of History was not unresponsive to the growing challenge. It worked actively to develop an understanding within the University community of the great importance of history for black Americans. On April 27, 1922, the department presented a program, “Recent Tendencies in Race Thought and Opinion” in the university-sponsored series of “Faculty Round Tables.”(36)

The appointment of William Leo Hansberry at Howard, in the context of the proceeding efforts by the department, Kelly Miller, Alain Locke, and the American Negro Academy, marked the beginning of an epoch in the development of the Department of History and the serious study of the ancient civilizations of Africa, long obscured in modern times by the dominant white supremacist view that the African past was a justly ignored panorama of unrelieved barbarism and degradation. Of course the Afro-American interest in Africa was not at all new.(37) Many black abolitionists used Biblical references to Ethiopia and the historical account of Herodotus to recall a golden age of the race in the dim past. Black preachers had not failed to notice that Moses is reported as having had an Ethiopian wife in Numbers 12:1; and many black Americans saw prophecy in the words of Psalm 68, verse 31: “Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.” The interest in Africa as the ancestral homeland was therefore not new, either for purposes of racial vindication, or for the nineteenth century plans for colonization by Paul Cuffee, Martin R. Delany and others, or even for the “redemption” of the continent envisaged by Alexander Crummell. Similarly, the interest at Howard in Africa was not entirely new. African students had attended the University as early as 1872. Some of the early faculty and trustees had served in Africa as missionaries, and one early alumnus, John Henry Smyth (Law, 1871) served as a United States Minister to Liberia. The first essay on the history and geography of Africa by a Howard faculty member was probably the article by George William Cook (A.B., 1881) “Early Discoveries in Africa” published in the October, 1885 issue of The A.M.E Church Review, which discusses the observations of Africa by Herodotus and Ibn Batuta, the development of, account of the Travels of Mungo Park (1771-1806), the great Scottish explorer of West Africa.(38) What was new in Hansberry’s case was his professional training and a single-minded devotion to make known … the history of ancient and medieval Africa. Because of his pioneering but neglected work, it will be useful to review briefly his emergence as a scholar and his development of the first courses on ancient African history to be taught in an American university.

Departmental Expansion, 1942-1964

Howard University’s commanding position as “the capstone of Negro education” was well established by the 1940s. The University had been transformed physically by its participation in the New Deal’s Public Works Administration building program. From the odd assortment of structures dominated by the style one could call “Washington Victorian,” a new campus had emerged in less than a decade, designed by the outstanding black architect, Albert I. Cassell. The new Howard University, planned according to the classical principles of symmetry favored by Thomas Jefferson in his plan for the University of Virginia, was a striking symbol of the higher aspirations of Blacks in American society. The majestic new upper quadrangle, dominated by the Founders Library, (a copy of Independence Hall in Philadelphia) and the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hall, was increasingly attracting national interest as more and more of the best minds of the Negro race were attracted to this unique intellectual forum. But the physical changes were only a part of the general transformation of the institution. Increasingly the academic excellence achieved by the new faculty of the 1930s was being recognized throughout American higher education. Gradually a better prepared student body was attracted to the university, and graduate work began to occupy a more important place at the university. While the Second World War interrupted the building program, the consolidation and strengthening of departments moved apace.

In the Department of History, the twenty year period between 1942 and 1962 was marked by the slow but steady increase in the research productivity of the faculty, and the addition of scholars who were developing national reputations. Among the better known additions in this period were Merze Tare in 1942, John Hope Franklin in 1947, Elsie M. Lewis in 1956, and Chancellor Williams in 1961. This growth took place during the department’s administration by Rayford W. Logan, who succeeded Charles H. Wesley as Head in 1942. Just as Wesley was the central figure in the “foundation period” of the department’s orientation toward research, Logan was clearly the dominant personality during the department’s “maturing years,” which were culminated by the University’s approval of a Ph.D. program in history in t962. Rayford W. Logan was not only one of the leading professors at Howard University, but an internationally recognized scholar and leader in public affairs….

Defense Fund lawyers were able to argue that the original intent of the framer’s of the Fourteenth Amendment had been thwarted by racists, and further that the “history of segregation laws that reveals that their main purpose was to organize the community upon the basis of a superior white and an inferior Negro caste.”(39) Although the Court did not accept fully the historians’ arguments, saying that the matter of original intent was “at best … inconclusive” and that the Amendment’s applicability to public schools was moot because of their limited availability in 1868, the important role of historians is clear.(40) Since many persons share the view of Dean Louis H. Pollak of Yale Law School that this decision of the U.S. Supreme Court was “the most important American governmental act of any kind since the Emancipation Proclamation,” it is significant that two members of the Howard University Department of History joined forces with other social scientists to assist in preparing for this historic victory by civil rights lawyers, many of them also from the Howard faculty, including James M. Nabrit, Jr. and George E.C. Hayes.(41)

When John Hope Franklin accepted the offer to join the Brooklyn College faculty as Professor and Chairman of its Department of History, (1956-1964)Howard University lost one of its prized teachers and distinguished scholars. His later career, well known in the historical profession, has included service as William Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at Cambridge University, visiting professorships at Harvard, Wisconsin, Cornell and California at Berkeley. He was written books on the Emancipation Proclamation and Reconstruction, and edited several notable works of historical significance. Among his many important activities in addition to research and teaching, have been service as Chairman of the Fisk University Board of Trustees, Chairman of the Board of Foreign Scholarships, Presidents of the American Studies Association, and the President of the Southern Historical Association. Recognition of his eminence as an historian has been widespread, and is reflected in the numerous honors and awards conferred upon him, as well as, honorary degrees from many colleges and universities in-including Morgan State, Virginia State, Lincoln, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fisk, and Howard. Since 1969 he has been John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor of History, University of Chicago. [Currently, John Hope Franklin is the Duke University James B. Duke Professor Emeritus.]

A major landmark in the evolution of the Howard University Department of History was the approval of its petition to inaugurate a Ph.D. program by the University’s Board of Trustees in 1962. This was the culmination of a long process that had been initiated more than four decades earlier by Professor Carter G. Woodson’s reorganization and expansion of the curriculum in history, as well as his work as Chairman of the Committee supervising all graduate study. By 1927 a Graduate Division had been created, which evolved into the Graduate School, established in 1934. The growth of the Master’s degree program in history has been discussed earlier. In the years following the Second World War, the demand for graduate training of Blacks increased, especially in the South, where the legal challenges to segregated education since the 1930s had stimulated the upgrading of Negro schools and colleges.(42)

Although there were strenuous faculty debate, and some strong reservations about the wisdom of beginning Ph.D. programs in view of Howard’s comparatively limited resources, the first, in Chemistry, was authorized by the Board of Trustees in 1955. Authorization for Ph.D. programs followed in subsequent years for Physics (1958), Physiology (1959), and Zoology, (1959). Thus, at the close of the administration of President Mordecai W. Johnson in 1960, only four departments, all in the natural sciences, had established Ph.D. programs. At the inauguration of Dr. James M. Nabrit, Jr on April 26, 1961, however, Abraham Ribicoff, the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare noted in his address that in view of the great progress made in the physical plant of Howard, the university must turn its attention increasingly to improving the quality of its graduate curriculum. He established the goal that all departments would be strengthened so that the doctorate could be offered in all major fields, and pledged the Kennedy Administration’s support for such an unprecedented and ambitious undertaking.(43) In less than a year three departments, English, Government, and History were actively developing petitions to the Graduate Council for the establishment of Ph.D. programs.

On March 1, 1962, Professor Logan transmitted to President Nabrit the formal petition to inaugurate a program leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in history. The petition, signed by Professor Rayford W. Logan, Merze Tare, and Harold O. Lewis, Associate Professor Williston H. Lofton, Elsie M. Lewis and Chancellor Williams, and Instructors Elizabeth B. Warbasse, Maria M. Brau and Letitia W. Brown, noted that while “Howard University admits qualified students without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion,” there would be “for some years to come,” an “increasing demand for Negroes with the Ph.D. degree in history.” The department also stated that its program would help to meet the demand for trained historians in the emerging states of Africa-a growing opportunity as increasing numbers of African students matriculated at Howard University. The department supported its proposal for the program by indicating its record of research and publication, the high quality of the M.A. program demonstrated by the M.A. theses it had produced and the post graduate achievements of history alumni. Less attention was devoted to university resources, although the advantages of having access to the great research facilities of the nation’s capital, particularly the Library of Congress and the National Archives, were noted. Moreover, the “cordial relations” between Howard and the other universities in Washington– American University, The Catholic University of America, Georgetown, and George Washington, were cited as the basis for future cooperation in graduate education. In this connection the petition concluded that “au fur et a mesure as the program develops at Howard and as the inter university cooperation expands, the capital of the nation may well become almost a model for interracial, interfaith, interdisciplinary cooperation.”(44) In February, 1964 a Consortium of the five universities in Washington was established.

On March 3, 1962 an External Visitors Committee comprised of three distinguished scholars, met with members of the department, senior members of the Social Science Division, including Professors E. Franklin Frazier, Eugene C. Holmes and Robert E. Martin, and President Nabrit and other administrative officers, to offer advice on the development of the proposed program. The External Visitors were Dr. Waldo G. Leland, former Executive Secretary of the American Council of Learned Societies, Dr. Boyd C. Shafer, Executive Secretary of the American Historical Association, and Professor John King Fairbank, Director of the East Asian Research Center at Harvard University. Asked by President Nabrit and Professor Logan to “give a most honest and `severe’ appraisal of Howard’s needs,” the committee stated in its report to Acting Dean Stanton L. Wormley of the Graduate School that it was “impressed by the quality of members of the History Department, from the professors long at Howard to instructors serving their first year.” The report observed that in “Negro studies. Howard should offer the most comprehensive and intensive work and be the outstanding university in the United States. Whatever the emphasis, however, Howard should provide excellent training covering the entire field of history and look forward to preparing historians who possess wide knowledge and who thoroughly command the techniques of historical study.” Comprehensive recommendations were made concerning faculty development, research, student recruitment, curricular reorganization, the expansion and improvement of library resources, and substantial increases in university financial support of the department’s programs.

After the Department of History received authorization for the new program from university’s Board of Trustees, it became necessary to undertake as key priorities a major reorganization of the curriculum and the recruitment of new faculty. In 1962-1963 the department offered the first four Ph.D. fields it had decided upon. United States History to 1865; United States History since 1865; Modern European History; and Modern African History. A year later it added East Asian History and Latin American History. In the first two years of the adjustment period Dr. Logan added six new faculty members to the department, which enabled it to expand course offerings and also reduce, to a degree, the teaching loads of those members of the faculty teaching graduate courses. The six new faculty members were Dr. Nathaniel Davis of the United States Department of State, a graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy who taught Russian History; Dr. A.J. Graham Knox formerly an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Puerto Rico, who was a specialist in Latin American History, including the West Indies; Mr. William Stephen Smith, a graduate of Howard who had taught United States History at Shaw and Southern universities; Dr. Dorothy Goodman, a graduate of the University of London and specialist in modern European history, who taught the graduate course in Historiography and Historical Research; Dr. Harold G. Marcus, a graduate of the African Studies Program at Boston University, who taught African History; and Dr. Esther Morrison, a Radcliffe graduate whose speciality was modern Chinese History. The department had clearly embarked on a new stage of development….

Curricular Experimentation in a Time of Crisis in Higher Education, 1964-1970

The doctoral program in the Howard University Department of History was launched at a time of buoyant optimism in American higher education. Public support for college and universities had increased substantially in the years following the Second World War, and universities had expanded at an unprecedented rate. Widespread student disenchantment with the system symbolized by the term “multi-versity” became increasingly clear, however, and as student opposition to the war in Vietnam intensified, many leading universities were engulfed by serious disorders. The problems faced by Howard in this critical era were among the most serious in the University’s history. As in earlier periods, the campus was a prism through which the hopes and frustrations of black Americans were refracted. But at this juncture in the history of American race relations the intensity of the frustrations had substantially increased, and their reverberations on the campus were correspondingly greater. Whites as well as Blacks regarded Howard as a vital intellectual center. Like many of his predecessors, President Lyndon B. Johnson had chosen to make his most comprehensive statement on race and national policy at Howard, at its commencement exercises on June 4, 1965.

Similarly, many black spokesman from a wide political and ideological spectrum, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Bayard Rustin, Malcolm X, Ron Karenga, Stokely Carmichaet, and Eldridge Cleaver, came to the University to express their views. When the early victories of the civil rights marches and sit-ins of the late 1950s and early 1960s failed to achieve results commensurate with the sacrifices made, a new broadly ramified militancy was grafted on to the old movement. What were usually called the “Black Power” and “Black Consciousness” movements became major, and at times dominant elements in black thought, especially among the young. As the quest for a new black identity gained momentum, Howard University students were naturally deeply involved….

For the Howard University community the mid 1960s were years when campus protest organizations proliferated, and student demands multiplied for the University, especially the College of Liberal Arts, to transform its curriculum. The effort to create new identities for Blacks as individuals was expanded to create a new identity and mission for Negro institutions. Since Howard was the most important Negro institution in the United States, it naturally became the object of powerful social and cultural forces pressing for fundamental changes in its character. Rejecting the integrationist assumptions of the past, many students insisted that universities “in which the majority of the students are black have a special obligation to transform themselves into universities in which the curriculum is relevant to and addresses itself to the special problems of black people living in … a racist society.”(45) In February, 1968, among the student demands listed in the ad hoc publication, the Spear and Shield, was one that Howard “should be the center of Afro-American thought. We demand that [departments in the Social Science Division] begin to place more emphasis on how these disciplines may be used to effect the liberation of black people in this country.” To the Department of History there was addressed the specific demand of instituting “a nonpre-requisite course in Negro history,” which had arisen because the department required students to complete the survey of United States history for admission to the course in Negro history. The University became the focus of national attention a month later when students seized the Administration Building, March 19-March 23, 1968. As one of the conditions for vacating the building the students again insisted on the establishment of a “a non-pre-requisite course in Negro history.” The importance of history to the movement for a new identity, or for “black consciousness” was widely recognized, and to many it seemed that practically the entire undergraduate student body had become avidly interested in the black past, almost “overnight.” History was suddenly called upon to serve many different and often conflicting purposes. On one end of the spectrum was a large an vocal constituency which looked to history for help in resolving an identity or cultural crisis. A Second type of constituency conceived of black history as an instrument of revolutionary black nationalism. As Professor Benjamin Quarles … pointed out in a perspective analysis of the explosion of interest in black history, the black revolutionary nationalist “views history as grievance collecting, a looking back in anger.”

Black nationalist history [he continued] is essentially the story of a powerful white majority imposing its will upon a defenseless black minority. Black nationalists hold that American society needs to be reconstructed and that black history is, or should be, a means of ideological indoctrination in the revolutionary cause of black liberation.(46)

A third group, necessarily smaller than the others in the context of the campus unrest of the late 1960’s was interested in the study of the past as an academic discipline.

In these circumstances, the Department of History was faced with a welter of vexing problems. The demands for a massive expansion of courses on black history could not be met than partially. The department was also acutely aware of its professional obligations to prepare future historians by rigorous training in the techniques of research and writing. There was the agonizing situation of reconciling the sudden demands for change with the requirements of academic integrity, for popularization with adherence to professional norms. Moreover, there were differences of opinion as to what the “identity” of the department should be in this turbulent period. Should it adopt a stance of cultural pluralism, insisting on cosmopolitanism as the appropriate intellectual response to American racism, or should it be, without equivocation or apology, a department committed primarily to the development of black history and black historians? The question had never been posed so clearly before, and the student protest made some answer imperative. It was not surprising, therefore, that curriculum re-organization became a consuming departmental preoccupation; and at various times during the six year period, 1964-1970, most members of the department were actively involved in curriculum committee work.

During the chairmanships of Dr. Elsie M. Lewis (1964-1969)and Dr. Harold O. Lewis (1969-1970), two major structural changes in the curriculum were achieved. First, there was greater differentiation in the courses available to graduate students, and clearer articulation of the instructional program so that the department’s graduate work would not develop at the expense of undergraduate instruction. While some aspects of this new graduate curriculum could not be fully implemented immediately because of insufficient staff, it was a good foundation for later development. A second major curricular change was the total revision of the undergraduate courses. Under the new system, adopted in May, 1968, students were offered a broader choice of course and the option to develop a field of concentration in history. The fields offered were the Americas, Europe, and the Non-west. In addition, there was a field comparative history. All of the courses within fields were given a designated level of difficulty so that students and their advisors could plan programs in a more orderly fashion, progressing from general introductory courses to intermediate and advanced, specialized work. Among the new introductory courses was “Africans and Afro-Americans” (later changed to “Introduction to Black History”) a non-prerequisite course designed primarily for students not majoring in history. This became one of the most popular courses offered by the department, taught in the first experimental years by two young instructors, Mr. Kalu Ume (Ph.D., Howard University, 1971) and Mr. Clifton F. Brown (M.A., Howard University, 1968). The department retained its intermediate course in this area “The Negro in the United States” (two years later changed to “Afro-American History”), which continued to be mainly for department majors who had completed introductory courses in United States history. The laborious curriculum reorganization completed in 1968 was the most sweeping change of the department’s instructional program since 1919. The chairman of the department for five years of this critical period of Sturm und Drang was Dr. Elsie M. Lewis. She had joined the Howard University faculty, as a specialist in the history of the American Negro and of the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction, when Professor Franklin went to Brooklyn College in 1956. A major expansion of courses in African history was also achieved in the critical years of the 1960s. The professor most responsible for this was Dr. Chancellor Williams, who joined the Department of History in 1961 after fifteen years of service in the Social Sciences program of the College of Liberal Arts….

New Directions, 1970-1973

Howard University has owed much to other schools for its leadership in the field of history. Charles H. Wesley and Elsie M. Lewis were graduates of Fisk, in the South, while Rayford W. Logan and Harold O. Lewis were graduates of New England colleges, Williams and Amherst. It was not until the Department of History was in its 57the year that one of its own baccalaureate graduates was appointed Chairman.(47) The leadership of Dr. Lorraine A. Williams, who was appointed on March 7, 1970, has this added significance as a milestone in the development of the department. The three year period from 1970 to 1973 was one of the busiest and most productive in the department’s history, when there was unprecedented expansion of existing programs and creation of new ones in various areas. Still in the grip during 1970 of the general crisis described earlier, the department had to steer a course through a stormy period, maintaining a balance between the need to preserve its intellectual traditions and the rapid changes demanded by new circumstances. There can be little doubt, after a study of the record, that the achievements made by the department during this critical period were attributable to the outstanding leadership of [Lorraine Williams] the Chairman. [For more information on the Department of History and Lorraine Williams, please see David De Leon’s “Asking the Right Questions” and Debra Newman Ham’s “for Such a Time as This.”]

History Courses at Howard University 1919

For Freshmen and Sophomores [Junior College]

History 1 Civilization of the Near East and Greece (Dyson)

History 2 Roman Civilization (Dyson)

History 3 Medieval Europe (Wesley)

History 4 Modern Europe (Wesley)

(No History 5)

History 6 History of England to Henry VII (Tunnell)

History 7 History of England Since Henry VII (Tunnell)

(No History 8-10)

History 11 History of the United States 1606-1789 (Woodson)

History 12 History of the United States 1789-1850 (Woodson)

History 13 History of the United States 1850-1877 (Woodson)

History 14 History of the United States from 1877 to the Present


For Juniors and Seniors [School of Liberal Arts]

History 25 The Renaissance and Reformation (Wesley)

History 26 Constitutional History of England (Tunnell)

History 27 The Revolutionary Movement in Europe, 1740-1871

History 28 Recent European History 1870-1919 (Wesley)

History 29 Latin America (Dyson)

History 30 The Negro in American History (Woodson)

History 31 Constitutional History of the United States, I (Woodson)

History 32 Constitutional History of the United States, II (Woodson)

History 33 Selected Topics in American History (Woodson)

History 34 America as a World Power (Tunnell)

History 35 Russia and the Far East (Wesley)

History 36 European Expansion in Africa (Wesley)

Illustration courtesy of the Department of History, Howard University

(*) excerpted with permission from the Howard University History Department


(1) One of the founders of the American Historical Association, J. Franklin Jameson, recalled that in 1882, of five Eastern Universities that in 1934 had 25 historians between them, only one had a professor of history, three were planning to hire a historian, and one was apparently not interested.

Forty-one men founded the AHA on September 10, 1884. See J. Franklin Jameson, “Early Days of the American Historical Association 1884-1895,” American Historical Review, Vol. XL, No. 1. (October, 1934), pp. 1-9.

(2) See John Higham et al., History: The Development of Historical Studies in the United States (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1965), pp. 4-5.

(3) See the discussion of “College and Professionally Trained Negroes Prior to 1866” in Rayford Logan, Howard University: The First Hundred Years 1867-1967 (New York: New York University Press, 1969), pp. 4-7.

(4) Calhoun’s comment was frequently recalled by nineteenth century black intellectuals. Referring to it in his First Annual Address to the American Negro Academy on December 28, 1897, “The Attitude of the American Mind Toward the Negro Intellect,” the Reverend Alexander Crummell, said: “Just think of the crude asininity of even a great man! Mr. Calhoun went to Yale to study the Greek Syntax, and graduated there. His son went to Yale to study the Greek Syntax, and graduated there. His grandson, in recent years, went to Yale, to learn the Greek Syntax, and graduated there. Schools and Colleges were necessary for the Calhouns, and all other white men to learn the Greek Syntax. And yet this great man knew that there was not a school, nor a college in which a black boy could learn his A.B.C.’s. He knew that the law in all Southern States forbade Negro instruction under the severest penalties. How then was the Negro to learn the Greek Syntax? How then was he to evidence to Mr. Calhoun his human nature? Why it is manifest that Mr. Calhoun expected the Greek syntax to grow in Negro brains, by spontaneous generation!” The American Negro Academy Occasional Papers, No. 3. (Washington: The Academy, 1898), p.11.

(5) William Weston Patton, President from April 25, 1877 to December 31, 1889, a militant abolitionist who had helped to organize the American Missionary Association, had lobbied for the Emancipation Proclamation, and had drilled Union troops in his abolitionist church in Chicago, was an inveterate opponent of lowering the standards of the College Department. He articulated

the symbolism inherent in Howard University not only for Blacks, but for whites as well. In his history of the university he wrote: “As Washington had represented in the past American slavery by its slaves and slave-auctions and interstate slave trade, as well as by its governmental action on furtherance of the interests of slavery throughout the land, so it seemed well to plant here, on strictly national soil and under the auspices of the Federal Government, a noble University, as a monument of freedom, and as a token of national penitence for the sin of oppression practiced toward the African race.” William W. Patton, The History of Howard University 1867 to 1888 (Washington: Howard University, 1896), p.4. See also William A. Sinclair, The Aftermath of Slavery. A Study of the Condition and Environment of the American Negro (Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1905), pp. 266-269; and the unsigned article “Our Colored Population: Their Progress and Development,” The Morning News (Washington, D.C.), November 4, 1869.

(6) Letter of May 2, 1934 from William V. Tunnell to Walter Dyson. Dyson Papers, Moorland-Spingarn Collection, Howard University.

(7) See Howard University Catalogue for 1876, p.18.

(8) Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Howard University 1868-1869, pp. 23-24. Students who entered the College Department after study in the Preparatory Department, which was the usual pattern in the nineteenth century because of the high college admission standards and the restricted opportunities for sound secondary education for Blacks, received some training in history because the Preparatory Department offered what was called a “solid English education.” See Annual Catalogue of the Normal and Preparatory Department of Howard University, 1867, p.11.

(9) In the first “Course of Study” of the Preparatory Department, history and geography were taught in the first year; the other subjects taught that year were Latin and mathematics. The texts used in the first, second, and third years of history were Sewell’s Roman History, Bojesen’s Roman Antiquities, and the companion volumes on Greek history and Greek antiquities. In the Normal Department, in addition to Sewell’s Roman History, there was prescribed study of Alden’s Constitution of the United States and Wilson’s Modern History. Annual Catalogue of the Normal and Preparatory Department of Howard University, 1867, pp. 8-9.

(10) Francis J. Grimke, Anniversary Address on the Occasion of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C., 1841-1916 (Washington, D.C., 1916), pp. 1617; Howard University Catalogue 1889, p.23.

(11) King Hall, a large, imposing house on the West side of Sixth Street, N.W. was purchased by the University in 1906, when the Episcopal Church discontinued the Cooperative Divinity School. The building was used after 1916 for the School of Music until it was razed nearly forty years later for the construction of the present Howard University Administration Building. See, An Illustrated Handbook of Howard University, Washington, D.C. (Washington: Howard University, 1902), pp. 44-46.

(12) I am indebted to Mrs. May Miller Sullivan, daughter of Kelly Miller and well known Washington poet, for her recollections of her course in English history from Professor Tunnell. Interview with Mrs. Sullivan January 29, 1973 in the Library of Congress.

(13) Howard University Journal, Vol. 8, No. 23 (Friday, March 24, 1911), p.6. For a sketch of Cromwell see “Howard Alumni You Ought To Know” in The Howard University Record, Vol. XIV, No. 8 (June, 1920), pp. 450-451.

(14) Howard University Catalogue, 1911-1912, p. 56.

(15) Richard Hofstadter, The Progressive Historians: Turner, Beard, Parrington (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969), p. 21.

(16) For discussion of the abolitionist historians see Earl E. Thorpe, Black Historians, A Critique (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1971), pp. 33-42; and Vernon Loggins, The Negro Author, His Development in America to 1900 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1931), pp. 127-175.

(17) Arthur A. Schomburg, “The Negro Digs Up His Past,” in Alain Locke, The New Negro: An Interpretation (New York: Albert and Charles Boni, 1925), pp. 231-237; p. 231; Schomburg’s conviction that the “vindication school” would die out was surely premature. A well known advocate of this form of historical writing in the era when the professional study of Negro history was being organized was Dr. Charles V. Roman, a president of the National Medical Association and Editor-in-Chief for ten of its Journal A famous speech of his was entitled “A Knowledge of History Conducive to Racial Solidarity” first published in Nashville in 1911 and reprinted in Carter G. Woodson’s Negro Orators and Their Orations (Washington: The Associated Publishers, 1925), pp. 643-652. In this speech Dr. Roman connected racial history with “racial integrity.” What Negroes needed he said was “a scholarship that will give us pride of race and inspire us with a reasonable hope of final triumph and historical vindication, yea, the positive assurance of a respectable seat in the hierarchy of civilization as a distinct phyletic entity, and not as the tolerated contamination of some nobler race. Racial solidarity and not amalgamation is the desired and desirable goal of the American Negro. Phyletic triumph through racial solidarity, rather than phyletic oblivion in the Lethean waters of miscegenation (sic), will be the teaching of that scholarship. A knowledge of history will bring this about….” (pp. 645-646).

(18) See Helen Boardman, “The Rise of the Negro Historian,” The Negro History Bulletin (April, 1945), pp. 148-154.

(19) Howard University Journal, Vol. VIII, No. 28 (Friday, April 28, 1911), p. 1. The material in this lecture was probably included in part in The Negro, published four years later in the Home University of Modern Knowledge series. Referring to this book thirty years later Du Bois said that the book “gave evidence of a certain naive astonishment on my own part at the wealth of fact and material concerning the Negro peoples, the very existence of which I had myself known little despite a varied university career.” The World and Africa (New York: The Viking Press, 1947), p. vii.

(20) Howard University Catalogue, 1913-1914, p. 13.

(21) See Rayford W. Logan, Howard University, pp. 115-116.

(22) Ibid., pp. 171-172.

(23) See Eugene C. Holmes, “Alain Le Roy Locke, a Sketch,” Phylon (Spring, 1959), pp. 52-89; Michael R. Winston, “Alain Le Roy Locke,” Encyclopedia Americana, International Edition (New York, 1972), Volume 17, p. 647; Rayford W. Logan, et al., editors, The Negro Thirty Years Afterward (Washington, D.C.: The Howard University Press, 1955), pp.3-17.

(24) Rayford W. Logan, Howard University, p. 171. Dorothy B. Porter “The Role of the Negro Collection in Teaching and Research at Howard University” (1967), p. 6. Typescript in Moorland-Spingarn collection; Alain Le Roy Locke, A.B., B.Litt., “Syllabus of an Extension Course of Lectures on Race Contacts and Inter-Racial Relations: A Study in the Theory and Practice of Race,” pp. 1-4 passim; E.C. Willliams, “Negro Americana,” Howard University Record, Vol. XVI, No. 6 (April, 1922), pp. 346-347; there was also a parallel development of intense interest in Negro history and culture in the city of Washington among educated colored society. Many literary societies, less well known than the Bethel Literary, began to devote their annual series of weekly readings to Negro subjects. The Richards Literary Society, for example, chose as its theme in 1915-1916 “The Negro in Africa and America.” Its twenty-five meetings of that year included many well known scholarly works and concluded the year with a session on May 25, 1916, devoted to the topic “The Joys of Being a Negro.” See Richards Literary program in Moorland-Spingarn Collection, Howard University.

(25) One aspect of the growing race consciousness on the campus was the intensification of efforts to add more Negroes to the faculty and to have a Negro president. The peculiarly ambivalent situation of the university on this question was reflected in a statement by Dwight O.W. Holmes in 1918: “The policy of maintaining mixed faculties … is not dictated entirely by the lack of men and women of color competent to fill all positions on the faculty; for today the supply of such material is adequate. It seems that the governing body considers it in the best interest of the University to preserve the racial mixture in the offices and faculties in order that the students may receive the peculiar contribution of both the races and that the institution may have its interests concretely connected with those of the dominant race.” Holmes, “Fifty Years of Howard University,” Journal of Negro History, Vol. III, No. 4, p. 379.

(26) The first seventeen departments were English, Mathematics, Greek, Latin, History, French, Spanish, German, Physics, Chemistry, Botany, Zoology, Geology, Economics and Political Science, Sociology, International Law, Philosophy and Psychology. Many remained one-man departments until the expansion of the university after the Federal appropriation was legalized by the Amendment to the University Charter in 1928. See Howard University Catalogue, 1913-1914, p. 48.

(27) For a judicious discussion of the conflict between Durkee and the Howard faculty and alumni, which led to his resignation, see Rayford W. Logan, Howard University, pp. 231-240. Two members of the Department of History, Professors Tunnell and Wesley, were clearly opposed to Durkee, declaring him autocratic and not fit to be president of Howard University, despite the material expansion of the University during his administration.

(28) Tunnell had only one other member of the Political Science Department on a part-time basis. Dean George W. Cook taught one course, “International Law.” See Howard University Catalogue, 1922-1923, pp. 188-189.

(29) See B. Joyce Ross, J.E. Spingam and the Rise of the NAACP, 1911-1939 (New York: Atheneum, 1972), pp. 90-95. The fullest published accounts of Howard’s role on the First World War are George M. Lightfoot, et al., “Howard University in the War a Record of Patriotic Service,” The Howard University Record, Volume XIII, No. 4 (April, 1919); Walter Dyson, Howard University, pp.70-85; and Rayford W. Logan, Howard University, pp. 179-183.

(30) Copies of the Office of War Information questionnaires are in the papers of Jesse E. Moorland, Howard University.

(31) Rayford W. Logan, Howard University, p. 181

(32) Howard University Record, Volume XVI, No. 2 (December, 1921), pp. 77-91.

(33) Howard University Record, Vol. XVII, No. 1 (November, 1922), p. 10.

(34) Howard University Record, Vol. XVI, No. 4 (February, 1922), p. 199.

(35) Ibid.

(36) See announcement of Faculty Round Table for the academic year 1921-1922 in Howard University Record, Volume XVI, No. 2 (December, 1921), p. 114.

(37) See Dorothy B. Porter, “A Bibliographical Checklist of American Negro Writers About Africa,” in Africa from the Point of View of American Negro Scholars, edited by John A. Davis (Paris: Presence Africaine, 1958), pp. 379-399; St. Clair Drake, “Negro Americans and the Africa Interest” in The American Negro Reference Book, edited by John P. Davis (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1966), pp. 662-705; Adelaide Cromwell Hill and Martin Kilson, Apropos of Africa: Sentiments of Negro American Leaders on Africa from the 1880s to the 1950s (London, 1969): George Shepperson, “Notes on Negro American Influences on the Emergence of African Nationalism,” The Journal of African History, Volume 1, Number 2 (1960), pp. 299-312; and Richard B. Moore, “Africa Conscious Harlem,” Freedomways, Volume 3, No. 3 (Summer, 1963), pp. 315-334.

(38) For a recent scholarly assessment of Mungo Park see George Shepperson’s commemorative lecture for the bicentenary of Park’s birth, September 8, 1971, published in the University of Edinburgh Journal, Vol. XXV, No. 4, pp. 301-304. What is perhaps especially surprising about Dean Cook’s article is its divergence from the commonly held belief among American Negroes of the nineteenth century that the white American stereotype of Africa was essentially correct, and that Africa had to be “redeemed.” In the same year that Cook’s essay appeared, for example, the Indianapolis Freeman editorialized in January that “Africa is our fatherland … we must prepare to enter upon the elevation of Africa with other races … civilizing our brethren … as well as christianizing them … we must enter Africa with the Anglo-Saxon and help build it up.” (Quoted in Drake, op. cit., p. 680.).

(39) See John Hope Franklin, “The Historian and Public Policy Issues,” an address delivered in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in April, 1973, under the auspices of The Board of Foreign Scholarships, Lincoln Lecturers. (Typescript in Moorland-Spingarn Collection, Howard University). The Diary of Rayford W. Logan was also consulted for evidence about the crucial meetings in New York.

(40) The opinion, delivered by Mr. Chief Justice Warren for a unanimous Court, discusses this matter specifically. See Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka et al., 347 U.S. 483 (1954). The use of social scientists in the preparation of the school desegregation cases is discussed by Kenneth B. Clark in Argument: The Oral Argument Before the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1952-55, edited by Leon Friedman (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1969), pp. XXXI-L.

(41) Pollack quoted in Lewis-Friedman, op. cit., p. V.

(42) For analyses of this trend see James M. Nabrit, Jr., “Resort to the Courts as a Means of Eliminating Legalized’ Segregation,” The Journal of Negro Education, Volume XX (Summer, 1951), pp.460-474; and William H. Hastie, “Toward an Equilibrium Legal Order, 1930-1950,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Volume 407 (May, 1973), pp. 18-31.

(43) See the unsigned article, “Dr. Nabrit Is Installed as 14th President,” in The Howard University Magazine, Volume III (July, 1961), pp. 4-11.

(44) The account of the establishment of the Ph.D. program in history, is based on the Petition of February, 1962; the Report of the External Visitors, March 14, 1962, and relevant correspondence (Logan Papers, Department of History File, 1961-1963).

(45) See Tom Myles, Centennial Plus 1, A Photographic and Narrative Account of the Black Student Revolution: Howard University, 1965-1968 (Washington: Black-Light Graphics, 1969), p.9.

(46) Benjamin Quarles, Black History’s Diversified Clientele (Washington: Department of History, Howard University, 1971), p.11.

(47) Two qualifications of the statement should be made clear. Professor Tunnell was a graduate of Howard (1884), but was never Department Head in History, since the designation was not used until 1921, when Tunnell was Head of Political Science. Professor Wesley was therefore the first Head. Professor Harold O. Lewis was a product of the department on the graduate level.

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