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Monday, October 18, 2021

This Day in History: September 19th

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Atlanta University was Founded

When the founders of Atlanta University first established the institution, they could not have predicted that it would expand and turn into what is now Clark Atlanta University. Atlanta University was founded on September 19, 1865, and became the nation’s first institution to award graduate degrees to African-Americans.

Shortly after the end of the Civil War, Atlanta University was founded by the American Missionary Association and received subsequent assistance from the Freedmen’s Bureau. During the late 1870s, Atlanta University began providing bachelor’s degrees and supplying Black teachers and librarians to public schools throughout the South. 

By 1929, the institution began offering graduate courses in liberal arts, social and natural sciences. The selection continued to increase with graduate programs in social work, library science, and business administration. During this time, the institution began to associate with fellow colleges in Atlanta, Spelman, and Morehouse, in a university plan known as the Atlanta University System. With the new association to Spelman and Morehouse, the modern organization of the Atlanta University Center was able to emerge. 

The Atlanta University Center saw significant developments in the years to come. The schools of library science, education, and business administration were all established by 1946, and the Atlanta School of Social Work gave up its charter to officially become part of the University. W.E.B. Du Bois was one of the founding faculty members at the School of Social Work and authored one of his most influential works during his tenure. Du Bois even served as chair of the sociology department from 1934-1944. 

By the end of the 1980s, Atlanta University and Clark College were discussing a possible merger between the two institutions. In April 1988, a joint committee presented a report entitled, “Charting A Bold New Future: Proposed Combination of Clark College and Atlanta University” to the board for approval. In June of 1988, both Clark College and Atlanta University made the ultimate decision to consolidate the two campuses into a singular institution, thus creating Clark Atlanta University. Dr.Thomas W. Cole, Jr., served as the first President of Clark Atlanta University, and he was also the President of both Atlanta University and Clark College prior to the consolidation. The university now enrolls more than 3,000 students per year. 

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