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HBCU of the Week “Spelman College”

About Spelman College

The Spelman College was first established in 1881 as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary. Later, in 1924, it got its name as we know today. Today, it is counted among the top educational institutions for women of African descent. The college is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The institute is also a member of the Atlanta University Center Consortium.

Their student body is made of over 2,100 students from 10 countries and 43 states. The institution works to empower women and help them commit to bringing constructive social change. Spelman College is known for offering creative, ethical, intellectual, and leadership development to its students.

With an average graduation rate of 76% over the last six years, it is known to be one of the best in the country. It is also a nice thing to note that its global alumni network is pretty strong and committed. The body works to lend a hand to the new graduates, helping them shape their career. The college used the sports fund to create a healthy body and mind program.

Rankings and Statistics

Spelman College is a liberal arts, women’s college located in Atlanta. It is the fourth historically black female institution of higher education to obtain its collegiate charter, which happened in 1924. It is ranked at the top among the country’s liberal arts colleges and proudly occupies the first position among the HBCUs. The educational institute is also known to be the second-largest producer of African-American graduates who go on to attend medical school. Spelman college also ranks at the top among baccalaureate origin establishments for African-American women who get their engineering, science, and mathematics doctorates. Not only this, Forbes has ranked Spelman in their list of the country’s top ten women’s colleges while the Princeton Review has included Spelman in their list of the Best 373 Colleges and Universities in America.


The Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary was first founded in the basement of Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta in 1881. It was established by Harriet E. Giles and Sophia B. Packard, teachers from Oread Institute of Worcester in Massachusetts. The school initially began with only 11 African-American women. They were given $100 by the First Baptist Church in Medford.

While the first few students to enroll were illiterate, the founders harbored the dream of making the school a fine liberal arts institute. The first circular within the college stated that the school planned to offer a wide range of subjects, including chemistry, botany, physiology, essays, Latin, algebra, rhetoric, political economy, mental philosophy, geometry, zoology, geology, astronomy, moral philosophy, Constitution of the United States, and evidences of Christianity.

Growth Over The Years

The period from 1910 to 1953 was a great one for the institution with the college seeing tremendous growth in a variety of sectors. Before Lucy Hale Tapley took over the presidency, the college’s administration did not have any interest in challenging the status quo of the women. Under the Tapley administration, the nursing curriculum was improved, and a home economics building was built, and a new teachers’ dormitory also came into being. The Tapley Hall, the science building, was ready in 1925. The Granddaughters’ Club was established, a club for students whose mothers, aunts, and other relatives had attended Spelman. What’s surprising is that it is still functional today!

Civil rights involvement

With the 1960s civil right movement, the students of the Spelman College were highly involved in the civil rights protests happening in Atlanta. The first students from the college were arrested for participating in sit-ins in the Atlanta community in 1962. Howard Zinn, a historian and an advocate of non-violence, advised many students on how to fight for their civil rights.


Some of the notable keynote commencement speakers include then First Lady Michelle Obama and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey. In 2017, quite recently, Spelman voted for allowing transgender women to enroll here. The 2019 rankings grab a place for Spelman College at the top among the HBCUs. The college offers more than 30 academic majors for undergraduate degrees and has partnered with over 30 universities for offering their students more programs that their campus does not offers, such as law, engineering, and healthcare. Being a highly selective educational institution, the college accepts about 30% of the applicants every year.

Notable Alumni

Spelman’s Alumni includes some popular names, such as Rosalind Brewer, first African-American COO of Starbucks and CEO of Sam’s Club, Evelynn M. Hammonds, former Dean of Harvard College, Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize winner, and TV personality Rolonda Watts. Other notable alumni are writer Pearl Cleage, activist and historian Bernice Johnson Reagon, Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, opera singer Mattiwilda Dobbs, and more. Some names in the performing arts include actresses LaTanya Richardson, Adrienne-Joi Johnson, Cassi Davis, and Keshia Knight Pulliam.


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