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Spelman College is a four-year liberal arts women's college located in Atlantamarker, Georgiamarker, United Statesmarker. The college is part of the Atlanta University Center academic consortium in Atlanta. Founded in 1881 as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, Spelman was the first historically black female institution of higher education to receive its collegiate charter in 1924. It thus holds the distinction of being America's oldest historically black college for women.


Spelman's History at a glance
1881 Established as Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary
1884 Name changed to Spelman Seminary
1901 The first college degrees were awarded
1924 Becomes Spelman College

The Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary was established on in the basement of Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, by two teachers from the Oread Institute of Worcester, Massachusettsmarker: Harriet E. Giles and Sophia B. Packard. The school was originally named Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary.

Giles and Packard began the school with 11 African-American women and $100 given to them by a church congregation in Medford, Massachusettsmarker. In 1882 the two women returned to Massachusetts to bid for more money and were introduced to wealthy businessman John D. Rockefeller at a church conference in Ohio.

In 1883, the school relocated to a nine acre (36,000 m²) site in Atlanta relatively close to the church they began in, which originally had only five buildings to support classroom and residence hall needs. The school was able to survive on generous donations by the black community in Atlanta, the efforts of volunteer teachers, and gifts of supplies.
Since its inception Spelman has had nine presidents:
  • Sophia B. Packard,
  • Harriet E. Giles, under whom the school gained a charter and granted its first college degrees
  • Lucy Hale Tapley, under whom the school decided to focus on higher education, the school officially became Spelman College (1927), and Sisters Chapel, one of the main buildings on campus, was erected.
  • Florence M. Read, a Mount Holyoke Collegemarker graduate, under whom the school established an endowment fund of over $3 million, the school came into agreement with Atlanta University and Morehouse College to form the Atlanta University Center (later Clark-Atlanta University, Morris Brown College, Morehouse School of Medicine, and the Interdenominational Theological Center were added), the Arnett Library was built, and Spelman earned approval from the American Association of Universities;
  • Dr. Albert E. Manley (the first black and first male president of Spelman), under whom study abroad programs were established, the fine arts center was built, and three new residence halls and several classroom buildings were renovated. According to Howard Zinn, Manley tried to suppress the student civil rights movement that was taking place on campus during his tenure.
  • Dr. Donald M. Stewart, under which the departments of women's studies and chemistry were founded, and three strategic programs were formed: the Comprehensive Writing Program, the Women's Research and Resource Center, and the Ethel Waddell Githii Honors Program, and a continuing education department and a computer literacy program were established;
  • Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole (the first African American female president of Spelman), under whom the college received $20 million from Drs. William and Camille Cosby for the construction of the Cosby Academic Center and instituted the Cole Institute for Community Service;
  • Dr. Audrey F. Manley (the first alumna president of Spelman), under which Spelman gained a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, Spelman was accepted as a provisional member of NCAA Division III athletics, a Science Center was finished;
  • Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, who was appointed in 2002 after teaching for a number of years at Mount Holyoke College, and under whom the renovation of Sisters Chapel was begun

In April 1884, Rockefeller visited the school and decided that he liked what he saw, so he settled the debt on the property. The name of the school was changed to the Spelman Seminary in honor of Laura Spelman, an Oread student and wife of John D. Rockefeller who helped to fund the school, and her parents who were longtime activists in the anti-slavery movement. Rockefeller's gift precipitated interest from other benefactors

"A Different World"
According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, when Debbie Allen became the director-producer of Bill Cosby's NBC television show, A Different World (which ran for six seasons and dealt with the life of students at the fictional historically Black college, Hillman College) she drew from her college experiences in an effort to accurately reflect in the show the social and political life on black campuses. Allen, "a graduate of historically black Howard Universitymarker, instituted a yearly spring trip to Atlanta where series writers visited two of the nation's leading black colleges, Morehousemarker and Spelman. During these visits, ideas for several of the episodes emerged from meetings with students and faculty."
"The Oprah Winfrey Show"
Oprah Winfrey included a panel of seven women from Spelman College via satellite on her Hip Hop Town Hall show. They had previously protested a scheduled performance by rapper Nelly at their school. At the time, students said they were upset at how the women were portrayed in his 2003 video "Tip Drill". Special guests on-stage included Russell Simmons, conscientious rapper Common, Dr. Benjamin Chavis of Simmon's Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, and Kevin Liles, executive vice president at Warner Music. Seated in the audience were Stanley Crouch of the New York Daily News and Bruce Gordon of CBS, former NAACP head.
In the movie ATL Lauren London's character, New New/Erin, wanted to attend Spelman College instead of her father's choice, Brinton. Later in the end of the movie it shows her attending Spelman with her dad helping her move into her dorm.

Rockefeller also donated the funds for what is currently the oldest building on campus, Rockefeller Hall; in 1887 Packard Hall was also established. Packard was appointed as Spelman's first president in 1888, after the charter for the seminary was granted. The first college degrees were awarded in 1901.

Packard died in 1891, and Giles assumed the presidency until her death in 1909. Lucy Hale Tapley then became president, and the college witnessed a transition to vocational training. Tapley declared: "Any course of study which fails to cultivate a taste and fitness for practical and efficient work in some part of the field of the world’s needs is unpopular at Spelman and finds no place in our curriculum." The nursing curriculum was strengthened; a teachers' dormitory and a home economics building were constructed, and Tapley Hall, the science building, was completed in 1925. A club for students whose mothers and aunts had attended Spelman was also created, and this club is still in existence today.

In 1924, Spelman Seminary became Spelman College. Spelman also solidified its affiliation with Morehouse Collegemarker and Atlanta University by chartering the Atlanta University Center in 1929. Atlanta University was to provide graduate education for students, whereas Morehouse and Spelman were responsible for the undergraduate education. In 1932, Spelman was granted accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. This milestone as accompanied by the construction of a university library that was shared amongst the Atlanta University Center institutions, and the center continues to share a library to this day.

In 1927, one of the most important buildings on campus, Sisters Chapel, was dedicated. The chapel was named for its primary benefactors, Laura Spelman Rockefeller and Lucy Maria Spelman. The college also began to see an improvement in extracurricular investment in the arts, with the inauguration of the much-loved Atlanta tradition of the annual Spelman-Morehouse Christmas Carol Concert and smaller events such as the spring orchestra and chorus concert, the Atlanta University Summer Theater, and the University Players, a drama organization for AUC students. In 1930 the Spelman Nursery School as created as a training center for mothers and a practice arena for students who planned careers in education and child development. Spelman celebrated its 50th anniversary in April 1931.


The Spelman campus consists of 26 buildings on 39 acres in Atlanta, Georgia. Packard Hall, named for one of the founders, Sophia B. Packard. Packard was constructed in 1888 to contain extra residences for on-campus students. It remained a residence hall until 2003, when it was renovated as an administrative building. The building now houses the Office of Financial Aid, the Registrar, the Cashier, the Office of Student Accounts and the Office of Admissions and Enrollment Management.

Giles Hall, named for one of the founders, Harriet E. Giles. Giles Hall was renovated in 1996 and currently houses the Departments of Psychology, Sociology, Political Science, Education, Economics, and Art, as well as the Honors Program and the Learning Resources Center. It is also known amongst students for its "hellish staircase."

Morehouse-James Hall was completed in 1901, named for Henry L. Morehouse. It serves as a student residence hall. Until 2005 it served as a residence hall for upper-class students, but due to a large influx of first-year students that year, it served as a first-year residence hall.

MacVicar Hall was completed in 1901 and was originally the nursing school and clinical training office. It now houses the Women's Health Center, the Office of Counseling and Disability Serivces, and a small residence hall for the students who participate in Student Health Advocates and Peer Educators (SHAPE), a peer health education organization on campus.

Reynolds Cottage, built in 1901 and remodeled in 1996, is the president's residence.

Bessie Strong Hall was constructed in 1917 and was renovated in 2003. It serves as a student residence for students in the WISDOM (Women In Spiritual Discernment of Ministry) program, and also houses the Dean of the chapel's office and prayer rooms. This residence hall was the main building used for the filming of the television series A Different World.

Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Building, completed in 1918, was originally intended as a facility to train home economics teachers. It is named after Laura Spelman Rockefeller, John D. Rockefeller's wife, who was a primary contributor to Spelman. It now houses the Marian Wright Edelman Child Development Center, and also provides a student residence hall. It is typically referred to as "Laura Spelman" to avoid confusion with the many other buildings named after Rockefeller's relatives.

Sisters Chapel, completed and dedicated in 1927, contains an auditorium with a seating capacity of 1,050 and the Harreld James Organ, a three-manual Holtkamp organ of 53 ranks. This organ was installed in April 1968. In 1942 the Alumnae Association donated chimes for the Chapel, and in the fall of 2005 renovations were completed.

Read Hall, built in 1936, contains the gymnasium, the Department of Physical Education, a swimming pool and bowling alleys and dance studios. It was named for Spelman's fourth president, Florence Matilda Read.

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Hall (commonly called 'Abby' by students) was built in 1952 and serves as a freshman residence hall. The hall was named for Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, the wife of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Fine Arts Building was completed in 1964 and houses the Departments of Music and Drama.

Dorothy Shepard Manley Hall, was completed in 1964 and was named for Dorothy Manley, wife of President Albert Manley, who contributed heavily to the decorating of the building. It now serves as a first-year residence hall.

Howard-Harreld Hall was built in 1968 and was named to honor two alumnae. It now serves as a first-year residence hall.

Sally Sage McAlpin Hall serves as an upperclass residence hall and was named in honor of a former chair of the Board of Trustees.
Presidents of Spelman College
Sophia B. Packard 1888 – 1891
Harriet E. Giles 1891 – 1909
Lucy Upton 1909 – 1910
Lucy Hale Tapley 1910 – 1927
Florence Read 1927 – 1953
Dr. Albert Manley 1953 – 1976
Dr. Donald Stewart 1976 – 1987
Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole 1987 – 1997
Dr. Audrey Forbes Manley 1997 – 2002
Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum 1997 – present

The Albert E. Manley College Center houses the Alma Upshaw Dining Room, the Lawrence J. MacGregor Board Room, administrative and student government offices, the snack shop, the commuter student lounge, and two concourses—Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. Adjacent are the bookstore and the mail center.

The Donald and Isabel Stewart Living-Learning Center opened in the fall of 1983. In addition to housing 198 students from all classes, the building includes a large meeting room and quarters for visiting lecturers, scholars, and artists.

The Johnnetta B. Cole Living-Learning Center II opened September 1, 1989. The Center houses 200 students and provides conference facilities for on-campus and off-campus organizations, as well as houses the Offices of Housing and Residential Life and Continuing Education.

The Camille O. Hanks Cosby Academic Center, dedicated in February 1996, was made possible by a $20 million grant from Drs. Bill and Camille Cosby. This building houses the Departments of History, English, Religion & Philosophy, and World Languages and Literature. The center also has a museum, the College Archives, an auditorium, the writing center, the Women's Research and Resource Center, reading rooms and a language resource center.

The Albro-Falconer-Manley Science Center is the newest building on Spelman's campus, as it was completed in 2000. This building houses the Departments of Biology, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Environmental Science as well as the Dual-Degree Engineering Program and the Office of Science, Engineering, and Technology Careers. It has a large auditorium donated by NASA. The "Science Center" also is a general term used to encompass Tapley Hall and the Academic Computing Center, both which predate the actual Science Center but are now connected to it by a series of breezeways.

In 2005, Spelman acquired the Millgan Building, an administrative building that previously housed the Atlanta University Center offices but now houses Spelman's Department of Career Services and the Office of Institutional Research, Assessment, and Planning. Spelman received a $10 million grant from Lehman Brothers in the fall of 2007 to establish an international business and global economics program, including a full service Chinese language program, at the college, and these programs are expected to be housed in the Milligan Building. Spelman also shares the Robert W. Woodruff Library with the other Atlanta University Center institutions.

In 2008 Spelman completed the construction of a "green" residence hall behind the Living-Learning Center I. The residence hall has suite-style accommodations for upper-class students, including a second dining hall and a parking deck on the ground floor and is for now referred to as "The Suites". Spelman's gates have been extended gate to encircle the new residence hall and the Milligan Building. The hall began housing students in the fall of 2008 and in th Fall of 2009 the Suites received a Silver LEED certification from the United States Green Building Council.

Other buildings no longer on campus:Chadwick Hall, originally a student residence hall (removed in 1986)Morgan Hall, the student center and dining hall (destroyed by fire in 1970)Upton Hall, an administrative building (removed in 2004)


Spelman has amassed an endowment fund of over $291 million, and was ranked at 77 in the 2009 U.S. News and World Report ranking of all U.S. liberal arts colleges. The 2009 U.S. News and World Report also ranked Spelman first among Historically Black Colleges and/or Universities.

Spelman is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Spelman is a member of the Coalition of Women's Colleges, National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, The College Fund/UNCF, National Association for College Admissions Counseling, and State of Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC)>

Spelman offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in the following majors: Art, Child Development, Comparative Women’s Studies, Drama & Dance, Economics, English, Foreign Languages (French and Spanish), History, Human Services, Independent Major, International Studies, Mathematics, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies, Sociology, and Sociology and Anthropology.

Spelman offer a Bachelor of Science degree in the following majors: Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Computer and Information Sciences, Dual Degree Engineering, Environmental Science, Mathematics, and Physics.

Spelman has a four-year graduation rate of 61%, a five-year graduation rate of 73% and a six-year graduation rate of 74%. It has a student:faculty ratio of 12:1.

Student body

Students are all female and 91% African-American. Thirty percent come from Georgia, 69% from the rest of the United States, and 1% is international. Of the incoming class, 99% applied for need-based financial aid, and such aid was awarded to 97% of the freshman class. In 2007-08, a total of $44,399,221 in financial aid was awarded.

Student life

Spelman offers organized and informal activities including 82 student organizations including choral groups, music ensembles, dance groups, drama/theater groups, a jazz band, varsity, club, and intramural sports, and student government.

Honor societies

Registered honor societies include Alpha Epsilon Delta, Alpha Lambda Delta, Alpha Sigma Lambda, Beta Kappa Chi, Golden Key International Honour Society, Kappa Delta Epsilon, Mortar Board Senior Honor Society, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Sigma Alpha, Psi Chi, Sigma Tau Delta, and the Upsilon Pi Epsilon.

Student publications and media

Spelman offers a literary magazine, a student newspaper (Spelman Spotlight) and student government association newsletter (Jaguar Print, A student film society is also registered on campus. The yearbook is called Reflections.

Religious organizations

Religious organizations currently registered on campus include Baha'i Club, Al-Nissa, Alabaster Box, Atlanta Adventist Collegiate Society, Campus Crusade for Christ, Crossfire International Campus Ministry, Happiness In Praise for His Overflowing Presence, Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship, Movements of Praise Dance Team, The Newman Organization, The Outlet, and The Pre-Theology Society Minority

International student and social organizations

Both NAACP and Sister Steps are registered campus organizations.


The sports teams, including basketball, golf, cross-country, soccer, tennis, softball, and volleyball compete in NCAA Division III athletics. Spelman's mascot is the Jaguar.

Notable faculty

This list of notable faculty and staff contains current and former faculty, staff and presidents of the Spelman College.

Notable alumnae

This is a list of notable alumni which includes graduates, non-graduate former students, and current students of Spelman College.

See also Spelman College alumni.

See also

Suggested readings

External links


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