Howard was founded as a charter school by the United States government in 1867. Today, the school still receives a substantial portion of its funding from the federal government. The university is named for General Oliver O. Howard, a Civil War hero, commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau, and the school’s third president.
Howard jumped to national prominence in 1926 when Mordecai Johnson became Howard’s president. During Johnson’s presidency, the school expanded to include ten different colleges, 6,000 students, 20 additional campus buildings, and a faculty featuring some of the top scholars and historians in the country.
In 1955, the college started its first graduate degree program. To this day, Howard awards more doctorates to African-Americans than any college or university in the world.
Howard is the nation’s foremost African-American college, and its roots in the civil rights movement and social change date back to before the Harlem Renaissance, when Professor Alain Locke wrote the book The New Negro. Thurgood Marshall, the former Supreme Court Justice, studied law at Howard, and the campus hosted planning for the historic case of Brown v. the Board of Education in 1954.
Howard is situated on a hilltop above Washington, D.C. Very few campus buildings
are located in the city itself, and the campus is essentially its own world, separated as it is from the city (though students do spend a lot of time down in DC on the weekends).
The campus is divided into the main campus, east campus, and west campus. At the center of the main campus is the Yard, where everything and everyone comes together - the symbolic heart of campus life. It’s a great place to people watch and kill time talking to friends between classes. Once it gets warm, plenty of people can be seen milling about. Tons of campus events, from protests to commencement to homecoming, take place on the Yard.
On the far north side of main campus is the expansive Burr Gymnasium, Greene’s Stadium, and “The Pulse,” which is Howard’s private 5,000-square-foot workout center.
East campus is home to the Howard School of Divinity, and the hilly west campus houses the Howard Law School and the main library.
Howard is located on a hill above Washington, D.C. (giving the Howard newspaper its name, The Hilltop). Transportation is provided between the campus and the D.C. area, and many students take full advantage of their proximity to the city.
The relationship between the city and Howard also opens up a plethora of internship and job opportunities for undergraduates during the summer months. Some students even score government internships during the school year.
Every year, reps from each Howard residence hall head to the gym for coed sports events during "ResFest." Typically, there are tournaments in volleyball, swimming, and basketball, and people cheer on friends from their halls.
The Spring Black Arts Festival is a week-long event that attracts a huge following. People come out to celebrate the arts with dance, film, music, poetry, and fashion events.
It's common for certain floors in the dorms to have their own signs and chants that end up lasting their entire Howard careers. Friendly competition between halls is standard.
Debbie Allen (1972) is a multi-talented actress/choreographer/producer/director. She played the lead in the TV series Fame and directed the TV series A Different World.
Stokely Carmichael (1964) is the former “prime minister” of the Black Panthers.
Roberta Flack (1956) is the celebrated jazz and R&B singer of "Killing Me Softly," among other songs.
Toni Morrison (1953) is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple.
Phylicia Rashad (1970) is an award-winning stage and screen actress.
The Howard Bisons compete in Division I of the NCAA, with 16 varsity teams. Games aren’t hugely well-attended unless a certain team is doing well.
According to Howard University's BlackCollegeView.com,“At Howard University, student athletes are not treated as they should compared to those at white schools. Non- HBCU Division I programs would never allow the treatment and the facilities that Howard accepts. When the athletic department was asked to explain the conditions, they responded: ‘we don't have enough money for athletics.’"
Most students do not seem to mention athletics in their assessment of Howard’s campus activities or organizations.
Thurgood Marshall and his team of legal scholars prepared their case for the historic Brown v. Board of Education lawsuit on Howard's campus.
Debbie Allen's acclaimed TV show, A Different World, took place on a historically-black college campus. She got the idea for the show from her years at Howard.
Alain Locke, the first African-American Rhodes scholar, was the chair of Howard's philosophy department and helped usher in the Harlem Renaissance with his book The New Negro.
In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered an historic speech on civil rights to Howard students.
Housing at Howard is limited and therefore not guaranteed. The older you get, the less likely you are to get housing. That’s where the Room Selection and Verification Plan (commonly known as RSVP) comes into play. Students earn points for things like GPA and extracurricular activities. Having more points allows you to choose housing online sooner than other students, so racking up RSVP points should be a priority. There are ten dorms: the Bethune Annex and Tubman Quadrangle, which are for women; Carver Hall and Drew Hall, which are for men; Cook Hall, the Plaza Towers West, Meridian Hill Hall, and Slowe Hall, which are coed; and Mays Hall and the Plaza Towers East, which are coed dorms for graduate students. Some dorms, including the Annex and Cook, require students to purchase meal plans.
The Annex is occupied by freshman, sophomore and junior women. Each suite is comprised of a single and one to two doubles that share a bathroom. Each floor has a kitchen with a stove and microwave. The Annex is the only dorm on campus with its own cafeteria. The Tubman Quadrangle (“the Quad”) has doubles and triples and community bathrooms. Students who stay in the Quad and Drew Hall – the women’s and men’s freshman dorms, respectively – say they get a sense of camaraderie unlike that in the Annex, which is said to be more isolated because of its in-house cafeteria and suite-style living space. Cook Hall is populated largely by athletes. Meridian Hall is off-campus but can be accessed by university shuttle. Although it varies each year, Meridian generally houses freshmen and sophomores.
Mays Hall, located in Northeast Washington, is for students in the School of Divinity. The Plaza Towers East is designated for graduate students and undergraduates in honors programs. It is the only on-campus dorm with 24-hour visitation. Visitation hours are normally 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday in all other dorms. Look forward to losing visitation at least once during the year, no matter what dorm you stay in. The Plaza Towers West is reserved for juniors and seniors. The rooms are efficiencies, three-bedroom units, or double or triple studios, and each unit has its own bathroom and kitchen.