Today in History: November 20
…for wherever and whenever measures are advanced for the welfare of the people and the direction of the masses there the sons of Howard will be found in the midst of them…
Professor Kelly Miller, President's Address, Sixth Triennial Meeting of the College Alumni Association of Howard University, College Chapel, May 18, 1892.
African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907
Building and Courtyard at Howard University, Washington, D.C.,
Theodor Horydczak, photographer, circa 1920-1950.
Washington as It Was: Photographs by Theodor Horydczak, 1923-1959
On November 20, 1866, ten members of the First Congregational Society of Washington, D.C., gathered in the home of Deacon Henry Brewster for a missionary meeting. While there, they resolved to establish a seminary for the training of African-American clergymen. By early 1867, the founders had broadened their mission to encompass colleges of liberal arts and medicine.
Howard University (external link) was incorporated on March 2, 1867, and accepted its first students the following May. Its founders envisioned the institution as a resource for educating and training black physicians, teachers, and ministers from the nearly four million recently emancipated slaves.
The university was named for Major General Oliver O. Howard, a founder of the university as well as a Civil War hero and commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau (1865-72). Howard directed considerable resources towards establishing the university, including the original three-acre campus, the main building, and the old medical school.
Howard University was one of several educational institutions funded by the Freedmen's Bureau for the purposes of providing education for the freedmen. Congress had established the bureau in 1865 to provide practical assistance to the newly freed slaves. The bureau facilitated the building of 45 hospitals and the education of approximately 150,000 former slaves before it was dismantled in 1872.
Howard University's distinguished alumni include former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts Edward William Brooke, sociologist E. Franklin Frazier, playwright Imamu Amiri Baraka, and statesman Ralph Bunche.
Howard University's distinguished alumni include former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts Edward William Brooke, Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, sociologist E. Franklin Frazier, playwright Imamu Amiri Baraka, and civil rights leader and attorney Vernon Jordan. Charles Hamilton Houston, vice-dean of the Howard University School of Law from 1929-35, was a key architect of the legal strategy that ultimately overturned the separate but equal standard adopted by the Supreme Court in 1894, bringing an end to the segregation of public facilities in the South. Thurgood Marshall, who argued the case that overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, was one of many lawyers who had studied with Houston at Howard.
- Search the following collections on the term Howard University to find more documents relevant to the university's history.
- Search on Howard University in Washington as It Was: Photographs by Theodor Horydczak, 1923-1959 to find more images of the university.
- Built in America: Historic America Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record, 1933-Present has 30 images of Howard University’s Founders Library as well as data and caption pages for the photographs.
- Before being appointed commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau by President Andrew Johnson, Oliver Howard, a West Point graduate, fought at the First Battle of Bull Run, and at Antietam, Atlanta, and in the Carolinas. Search for images of these battle campaigns in Selected Civil War Photographs.
- Search the Today in History Archive on the keywords African American, college, or university for features on individual colleges and universities, and persons associated with these institutions. Learn, for example, about W. E. B. Du Bois and John Hope Franklin, distinguished graduates of Fisk University and Fisk’s Jubilee Singers, and about Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee University. Learn also about James Weldon Johnson, a graduate of Atlanta University and a Fisk University faculty member, Patrick Francis Healy, S.J., the African-Irish-American president of Georgetown University. See features on Daniel Webster and Dartmouth College and Amos Alonzo Stagg, football coach of the University of Chicago. Read the Today in History entry on Howard University faculty member Ralph Bunche.
- To find out more about the Reconstruction Period following the Civil War, search the American Memory collections on the keyword reconstruction to find items such as the “Letter from Peter Cooper to President Johnson” which makes a case for national reconstruction. A news article, “Reconstruction in Order,” documents the south’s resistance to the effort.
Mt. McKinley and the Alaska Range, Mt. McKinley National Park, Alaska, 1958.
Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991
On November 20, 1942, U.S. Army engineers, working closely with partners in U.S. civilian agencies and Canada officially opened the Alaska Highway. This overland military supply route, originally known as the Alcan Highway, passed through the Yukon, running from the prairies of British Columbia to the Territory of Alaska. The roadway was over 1,500-miles long and connected Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Fairbanks, Alaska. It provided Americans and Canadians on the Pacific coast new avenues for the transportation of goods, and an increased sense of security after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and escalating hostility in the Pacific. This first phase of construction was completed in less than eight months.
In the 1780s, Russian fur traders became the first European settlers of the land across the Bering Strait from Siberia. Russian influence on native Alaskans is explored in the Library of Congress exhibition In the Beginning Was the Word: The Russian Church and Native Alaskan Cultures. The Library’s collaborative digital project with Russian libraries, Meeting Of Frontiers: Siberia, Alaska, and the American West, explores the comparative history of the Russian expansion across Siberia to the Russian Far East and the Pacific, the American expansion westward, and the meeting of the Russian-America frontier in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
The Russian-American Company administered Alaska from 1799 until 1867, when Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiated the purchase of Alaska for the United States. Congress established The Territory of Alaska in 1912, prompted by the significant gold discoveries of the 1880s and 1890s.
Independence Mine, Palmer Vicinity, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska
Jet Lowe, photographer, May 1981.
Built in America: Historic Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record, 1933-Present
There is a wealth of material on Alaska in American Memory collections.
- Search on Alcan in America from the Great Depression to World War II: Black-and-White Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1935-1945 to find pictures of the construction of the road. Search on Alaska (both the bibliographic record and full text searches) in Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920 to find legislation, reports, and other related information. This search will retrieve another gem—The Harriman Alaska Expedition: Chronicles and Souvenirs May to August 1899 with photographs by Edward S. Curtis, paintings by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, notes on the region's indigenous trees from pioneering forester Bernhard E. Fernow, and essays by George B. Grinnell, John Burroughs, and John Muir.
- Search on Alaska in “California as I Saw It”: First Person Narratives of California’s Early Years, 1849-1900, selecting the option "Search Full Text," to find more accounts of travelers and miners.
- Search on Alaska to retrieve historic legislation in the collection: A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875.
- View historic maps of the region by searching on Alaska in the Library’s Map Collections.
- Search the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog on Alaska to find, among other things, images of Alaskan landscapes, cultural groups and daily life from various time periods, as well as posters and extensive architectural and engineering documentation for structures throughout the state from the collection Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record, 1933-Present.
- View the panoramic photographs of Alaska in Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991.
- Don't miss the Today in History feature on navigator Vitus Jonassen Bering, who explored Alaska more than 250 years ago.