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The Story Behind Howard’s Seal

Michael R. Winston, Ph.D.

December 3, 1976


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     When the new Howard University Museum in the Moorland- Spingarn Research Center opens its inaugural exhibition in February, visitors may be surprised to find in one section, devoted to the University’s early history, the original corporate seal of Howard University. It is very unusual for a university to change its seal, and some institutions have maintained the same one for centuries. (The University of Paris seal, for example, dates from 1292). The story of the change at Howard provides an interesting glimpse of an aspect of the University’s history that is now virtually forgotten.

     Adopted in 1867, the original Howard seal illustrated the daring concept developed by Senator Samuel C. Pomeroy of Kansas and General O.O. Howard of a democratic university open to men and women of all races. The student body included, in addition to Black and white Americans, Chinese, West Indians, Africans and American Indians. In a speech to the U.S. House of Representatives on June 6, 1870, Representative George F. Hoar of Massachusetts referred to Howard as a unique institution where "the Anglo-Saxon, the Celts, the Indian, the Mongolian, the Greek, and the African already sit, side by side on the same benches. All races and both sexes have here in the pursuit of knowledge a fair and equal favor." The University’s motto was "Equal Rights and Knowledge for All." The founders' motto was "Equal Rights and Knowledge for All." The founders launched a bold educational as well as social experiment, insisting against strong opposition, that former slaves , including women, be provided with collegiate and professional education, along with white students. For forty years Howard held firmly to its unpopular position.


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February 2000