Howard University has grown from a single-frame building in 1867 to more than 89 acres, including the six-story, 400-bed Howard University Hospital. Named after Civil War General Oliver Otis Howard, who became commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau. Up until 1926, every one of Howard’s presidents was white–until the arrival of Morehouse Alum Mordecai Wyatt Johnson. In 1974, it expanded to include a 22-acre School of Law West Campus, a 22-acre School of Divinity East campus, land in Northeast Washington and a 108-acre tract of land in Beltsville, Maryland.
Today, Howard is a private research university comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Among HBCUs, Howard has produced the greatest number of graduates with advanced degrees–thus, its nickname the “Mecca” of Black education. Five of the eight African American Greek letter fraternities and sororities within the National Pan-Hellenic Council were founded at the University: Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority (1908), Delta Sigma Theta sorority (1913), Zeta Phi Beta sorority (1920), Omega Psi Phi fraternity (1911), and Phi Beta Sigma fraternity (1914). Student activism has played a major role in the school’s history. It is the reason for Mordecai Johnson’s appointment to president of the university. From Howard University students like civil rights pioneer Stokely Carmichael to activism around Hurricane Katrina and post-earthquake disaster in Haiti, social activism and community service have led the university student body since the early 1900s.
Notable Alumni Include: Congressman Elijah Cummings; actor Ossie Davis; and Nobel Prize and Pulitzer-Prize winning author Toni Morrison.